'Hizbullah cell scouted Israeli targets in Sinai'

Source in defense team tells 'Post': Palestinian suspects were also planning attacks "deep inside Israel."

Hizbullah fighters 224.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah fighters 224.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
Some of the suspects from the Hizbullah terror cell in Egypt have admitted that they monitored Israeli tourist groups in Sinai, a source from their defense team told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. The group also monitored ships in the Suez Canal "to determine which ones were Israeli," before abandoning that initial plan to conduct attacks in the Arab country, the source said. In addition, the source confirmed reports that two Palestinian suspects, who were members of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades, had been planning to conduct terrorist operations "deep inside Israel" before they were caught. Another suspect - an Egyptian in Sinai - was arrested on Sunday, increasing the number of those in custody to 22, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The rest of the alleged 49-member cell is still at large. "For a limited time after the assassination of [Hizbullah operations chief] Imad Mughniyeh [in Damascus in February 2008], some of the individuals in Hizbullah thought that they would carry out a revenge operation against Israeli targets in Egypt, in Sinai," he said, noting that the cell leader known as Sami Shehab was among these individuals. "They monitored Israeli tourist groups and they also observed ships which were crossing the Suez Canal to determine which ones were Israeli, but this operation was canceled. One of the accused said that... this idea was opposed by the [Hizbullah] leader Muhammad Qablan, and when the leadership higher than Qablan found out about that, it canceled the operation. It said, 'We don't want problems in Egypt, and Egypt is a red line'" that should not be crossed, the source said. Egypt has accused the cell of planning attacks against Israeli targets and Egyptian installations throughout the country. Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah has admitted that one of the men - Shehab - was a member of Hizbullah, but he said that he and nearly 10 others had been helping to smuggle arms into Gaza and denied any intention to carry out attacks in Egypt. As for the two Palestinian suspects, who the source said were from the Gaza Strip, "they wanted to make operations inside Israel, deep inside Israel," the source said. Echoing statements from Hizbullah leaders, the source from the defense team said that "the issue is related only to offering logistical support to the Palestinian resistance inside the occupation, inside the occupied lands." He later clarified that he meant "against Israel." "It is not related to any operations against Egypt," the source said. Shehab has been detained for about six months, while others have been detained about four months, he said. The Egyptian government is currently trying to determine their sources of funding, he added, noting that the defendants had received "money transfers from abroad." No date has been set for their trial. The defense team recently requested that each of the detained suspects go through a thorough medical examination to determine whether they had been tortured, he said. "The accused were in a state of stupor," he said. "Something was wrong with their psychological state and their morale, as if they were under anesthesia... Because they didn't even act upon legal advice which was given to them by the defense. It's an unnatural situation." The team has also charged that the suspects' detention was illegal, since they had not been able to meet with their lawyers or talk to their families. "The accused didn't enjoy their constitutional rights. It is supposed to be that the accused, when they are arrested, face charges. They are supposed to be able to communicate with their lawyers and [their] families. All of this didn't happen," he said. The suspects include one Lebanese member - Shehab - two Palestinians and four Sudanese. The rest are Egyptian citizens, two of whom formerly had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, he said. The suspects are accused of joining a secret group outside the bounds of law and using terrorism as the means to execute their goals. They are also accused of espionage on behalf of a foreign organization unacceptable to Egyptian authorities, and possession of weapons and explosives. However, a formal indictment has yet to be issued, the source said.