Hamas: Israeli claims of alleged plot on Sharon’s life ‘ill-founded pretext’ to prisoner release
Earlier this week, Israel claimed that it has decreased the number of Palestinian prisoners it was planning on releasing Wednesday after it has discovered a plot by Hamas to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon. Hamas leadership viewed this Israeli claim as a ‘trick’ to lessen the number of prisoners it plans on releasing.
The Israeli daily - Yediot Ahranot – claimed that the Israeli authorities had allowed the general security service (Shin Bet) to publish a report about the arrest of a Palestinian youth - Omar Sharif, 19 - from the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina [near Jerusalem] over suspicion of being involved in military attacks against Israel. Sharif was accused of driving the suicide bomber to his destination to carry his assignment - bus no. 14 in Jerusalem that was blown up last June, killing 17 and injuring dozens others.
In the report, Israeli security, while interrogating Sharif, said that he admitted to them that Hamas leaders in the West Bank City of Hebron recruited him a few months prior to the suicide attack, and has had several encounters with them over that period. Sharif was able to travel from Jerusalem to Hebron and vice versa using his Israeli ID card.
According to Israeli security sources, Hamas leaders in Hebron have also asked Sharif to study Sharon’s movements in and around Jerusalem. At the time, Sharif was working for the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a maintenance technician. He is also a relative of Abdullah al Kawasmeh - a Hamas military leader in Hebron.
According to the report, another Palestinian activist - Samer al Atrash - was also arrested over suspicion he drove the suicide bomber that carried out another attack on bus no. 6 on May 18, 2003, killing 7 and wounding many others. While he was interrogated by Israeli security, the report claims that Atrash also admitted he was tasked to collect [for Hamas] information about the Jerusalem residence of the former Israeli minister - Shlomo Benizri.
Israeli security services said the two suicide attackers - disguised as Jewish orthodox – carried out the attacks under the direction of Abdullah al Kawasmeh, who was killed on June 21 by Israeli commandos. Israel claims that Sharif admitted that he and his colleague [Atrash] used their Israeli ID cards [for access] to collect information in plotting against Israel, including the attempt at assassinating Sharon.
According to the Tuesday edition of the New York Post, the plot against Sharon came to light because of an internal Israeli dispute over how many Palestinian inmates should be released as a goodwill gesture.
According to Hamas, Israel is using the alleged plot as a pretext to decrease the number of Palestinian prisoners supposed to be released Wednesday.
In a telephone interview with Al Bawaba, Hamas leader Ismaeel Abu Shanab dismissed the news report about a plot against Sharon as baseless and ludicrous.
“This is a trick and we do not accept this newest Israeli deception,” he said, commenting on the planned decrease in the number of inmates to be freed.
Abu Shanab pointed out that Hamas’ military wing had announced more than once that it was collecting information about Israeli politicians. He added “everybody knew this, especially after the assassination of Ibrahim Makadmeh.” He said that “The resistance of our people will continue to counter the aggression [by Israel] against us, and this is a fact that everybody is aware of.”
Abu Shanab also said that “publishing the list of prisoners-to-be-released was embarrassing for Israel as most of them were prisoners have almost completed their jail terms…therefore they had revert to their petty excuses.”
Abu Shanab reiterated that the Israeli claims are nothing but ‘ill-founded pretexts’ aimed at slowing the process of releasing the 10,000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel announced plans last week to release 540 prisoners, however only 350-400 prisoners are being slated for release today, something that has outraged PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and was responsible for a cancelled meeting between Sharon and [Palestinian PM] Abbas this week. (Albawaba.com)