Hizbullah cell reportedly planned TA attacks

Egyptian paper claims two detainees belonged to Fatah, planned to train for "martyrdom operations."

Hizbullah march 224.88 (photo credit: )
Hizbullah march 224.88
(photo credit: )
Two Palestinian Fatah members accused of belonging to the Hizbullah-linked cell uncovered recently in Egypt were planning to carry out a major suicide attack in Tel Aviv, an Egyptian newspaper reported on Thursday. The two were arrested a few weeks ago and are being questioned by prosecutors, according to the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The two belong to a 49-member cell in Egypt that is accused of planning attacks against Israeli targets and Egyptian installations throughout the country. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has admitted that one of the men is a member of Hizbullah, but said he and nearly 10 others were helping to smuggle arms into Gaza and denied any intention to carry out attacks in Egypt. Sheikh Mahmoud Qamati, deputy head of Hizbullah's political bureau in Lebanon, told Islam Online on Thursday that he did not regret the incident because "what we have done is only limited to the issue of supporting the resistance in Palestine and Gaza, and this can only be done through the Egyptian territories, which is Arab land." The two Fatah members admitted that "they were thinking about traveling to Sudan and then to Syria and Lebanon to train for 'martyrdom operations,' paving the way for them to enter Tel Aviv, the capital of Israel, to conduct a bit suicide operation there," according to unidentified sources quoted by Al-Masry al-Youm. The members joined the cell after meeting the cell's leader, Lebanese Sami Shehab, at the beginning of last year, after they stormed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip during a breach in the border. They then returned to the Gaza Strip, but were then smuggled into the Sinai by Fatah members to join the Hizbullah cell, said the report, which could not be verified by The Jerusalem Post. At least 25 members of the 49-strong cell have so far been arrested. Egyptian prosecutors have reportedly charged defendants with spying, possessing weapons and explosive materials. An Al-Ahram report earlier this week said that among the planned targets were Israeli tourist destinations in the Sinai. Meanwhile, the threat level has been raised in Egypt amid fears of retaliatory attacks carried out by fugitive members of the Hizbullah cell and attacks carried out against Egyptian foreign interests by Hizbullah, Asharq al-Awsat reported on Thursday. The move followed meetings of special joint committees comprising Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry officials, it said. Lebanese Parliament Speaker Berri received Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Ahmed Bidewi on Thursday, and talks centered on the current Egypt-Hizbullah crisis, according to the Lebanese news site Naharnet.com. Also on Thursday, the Lebanese newspaper Annahar reported that Cairo is pursuing an effort to bring criminal charges against Nasrallah and his deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem. Judicial sources reported that a panel of prosecutors from state security were preparing a document that would pave the way to charge the two for "conspiring and planning to execute attacks and terrorist operations on Egyptian soil." On Wednesday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit denied that foreign countries provided intelligence to aid Egypt in arresting members of the Hizbullah cell. "I say it is a lie, a lie, a lie," he told Russia Today TV in an interview. "Egyptian authorities and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry are the ones that monitor this issue and follow it and act within this framework." Jerusalem Post staff and AP contributed to this report.