Last updated: 11 August, 2011

Snatched Gaza man admits Hamas role

A Gazan engineer snatched from Ukraine told Israeli interrogators that he headed a Hamas military academy to rebuild Hamas fighting capabilities after a devastating war with Israel, Israeli media said on Thursday.

Citing just-released court documents, Israeli news website Nana10 quoted Dirar Abu Sisi as having told his Israeli captors that he was involved in “developing the range of missiles” and “setting up the Hamas military academy.”

Abu Sisi reportedly confessed to helping strengthen Hamas forces decimated by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead between December 2009 and January 2010.

He said that “a large number” of Hamas fighters fled their positions during the conflict.

“There was a failure in decision-making and an inability to use weapons during battle, partly through fear,” Israeli public radio quoted him as saying.

Nana10 said that Abu Sisi, former technical director at Gaza’s sole electricity plant, expressed remorse about the role he played in helping the Islamist movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, revamp its forces.

“I’m very sorry about my membership with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hamas movement and about my activity in developing the range of missiles and my participation in setting up the Hamas military academy,” the site quoted him as saying.

He also told interrogators that he took part in rocket trials in the central Gaza Strip, the website reported.

“I was present at a test firing toward the sea at Khan Yunis,” it quoted him as saying. “The missile fell after 22 kilometres (14 miles) although it was supposed to go 30 kilometres.”

Abu Sisi disappeared in March while travelling on a train in Ukraine and Israel later announced that it was holding him at Shikma prison in the southern Israeli port city of Ashkelon.

The following month he faced charges in an Israeli court.

“Abu Sisi is accused of nine charges regarding activity in a terrorist organisation, hundreds of counts of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and arms production offences,” a summary of the charges said at the time.

It said that he helped improve the performance of locally-made rockets used by Gaza militants, and was responsible for “increasing their range and ability to pierce steel so as to penetrate IDF armoured vehicles and thus harm soldiers.”

His Israeli lawyer, Smadar Ben-Natan, said in April that her client had made confessions “under very heavy duress which I would characterise as torture.”

Hamas denies that Abu Sisi had any connection to the organisation.

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has suggested that Israel snatched him because it believed he had valuable information about the whereabouts of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier seized by Gaza militants in 2006 and still missing.

Ben-Natan and Abu Sisi’s Ukrainian-born wife Victoria both deny that he knows anything about Shalit.