Last updated: 21 March, 2012

Israel hold Gaza Hamas man over planned attack

Israel’s Shin Bet said on Wednesday it was holding a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip who was allegedly involved in planning a suicide attack and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier.

The domestic security service said Mohammed Abu-Aathara, from the southern city of Rafah, was captured last month as he attempted to sneak into Israel and had admitted belonging to the military wing of the Islamic movement Hamas.

It said he confessed to having been recruited by Yunis Shaluf, a Hamas operative in Rafah responsible for gathering intelligence on Israeli troop deployment along southern Israel’s frontier with Egypt’s Sinai, which also borders Gaza.

“He asked Mohammed Abu-Aathara to work for Hamas in Sinai, to carry out surveillance and to photograph Israeli (military) outposts along the (Egyptian) border with Israel for the purpose of carrying out a terror attack,” the statement said.

Abu-Aathara entered Sinai through one of the tunnels that riddle Rafah, which straddles the Gaza-Egypt border, the statement added.

Along with other Palestinian and Sinai residents he used GPS equipment to map out potential targets around Israel’s Red Sea resort of Eilat and the nearby Taba border crossing to Egypt, the statement said.

The Taba stakeout “focused on the disposition of security forces and guard positions at the crossing,” it said. “They also gathered intelligence… on a number of civilian targets in Israel, particularly the town of Eilat.”

Last August, gunmen attacking from Sinai carried out a coordinated series of ambushes on buses and cars travelling along the Egyptian border some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Eilat, killing eight and wounding more than 25.

On March 9, an Israeli air strike on Gaza killed a militant leader who the military said was involved in planning the August attacks and was, with others, “planning a combined terror attack that was to take place via Sinai in the coming days.”

The Shin Bet said Abu-Aathara was indicted Wednesday on charges including “contact with a foreign agent, membership of an illegal organisation, conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to commit a kidnap and intent to harm state security.”