Mubarak: We won't allow destabilization

Egyptian authorities seize explosive belts, other bomb-making materials from Hizbullah agents.

nasrallah 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
nasrallah 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israeli and Egyptian officials said on Sunday that the Hizbullah agents whose arrests were announced by Cairo last week had been plotting to attack Israeli tourists at resorts in Sinai. In his first comments on the accusations, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Lebanon's prime minister in a phone call on Sunday that "Egypt will not allow anyone to violate its borders or destabilize the country." Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) declared that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah had ordered the agents to "hit Israeli targets," and that he hoped Nasrallah would pay the price for this "act of war." "He [Nasrallah] acknowledges that his men were involved in smuggling Iranian weapons into Gaza in order to hit Israel," said Katz. In an interview with Army Radio, Katz said Nasrallah had been a "marked man since the [2006] Lebanon war." Katz voiced the hope that "whoever knows what to do" will make sure that Nasrallah "is put in the right place." Egyptian cabinet minister Mufed Shehab revealed that authorities had seized explosive belts and other bomb-making materials from the agents. He also accused them of planning to buy a boat to "bring weapons and ammunition from Yemen, Sudan and Somalia and smuggle them into the country." The alleged agents were also "observing and locating the tourist groups who repeatedly come to south Sinai resorts and residences, paving the way to target them in hostile activities," Shehab told Egyptian parliament members, in a reference to Israeli tourists who frequently travel to the Sinai on vacation. The government had warned Israelis last week not to visit the Sinai desert because of new intelligence reports of terrorist plots to attack Israelis there. An Israeli official told The Associated Press that the operatives specifically planned to target Israeli tourists in the Sinai. Despite the warnings, up to 30,000 Israelis are believed to be vacationing in Sinai during Pessah. Egypt intends to indict Nasrallah for plotting terror attacks in Egypt, after he admitted that the cell's leader was a Hizbullah member, an Egyptian official told the Al-Ahram newspaper. Nasrallah, he said, was "a partner in the crime," which he said had violated Egypt's territory by using it for criminal operations. An Egyptian defense official said Hizbullah operative Sami Shihab, a central suspect among the 49 men arrested by Egyptian authorities, had been trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida newspaper reported. According to the report, the detainees admitted that a senior Hizbullah intelligence official had overseen the planning of terror attacks the group was meant to carry out on Egyptian soil. The official told the Kuwaiti newspaper that top Hizbullah operative Muhammad Qablan had worked to recruit activists and launch a training program in Egypt between 2007-2008. The report could not be verified by The Jerusalem Post. Egyptian parliamentarians are also calling to issue a warrant for Nasrallah's arrest. The MPs called to put Nasrallah on trial for encouraging "terror activities in an attempt to destabilize the [Egyptian] state," and to include him in the indictment expected to be served against the 49 cell members. On Sunday morning, Israeli defense officials said that while the Hizbullah cell had likely been planning an attack against Israeli targets, the episode was an internal issue between Cairo and the terror group, tied to the destabilization of the Egyptian regime. The officials added that "the arrest of Hizbullah operatives constitutes an escalation in tensions between Iran, Hizbullah and Egypt." The Defense Ministry said that despite the developments, Hizbullah had no interest in an escalation in the North, but stressed that Israel was following events closely. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.