'Hizbullah cell scouted Israeli targets'
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
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.
Hizbullah fighters in training .
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 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 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 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.
Egypt: Israeli nukes 'greatest threat'
Western policies based on pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear program will fail because they disregard Israeli nuclear capabilities, which is "the first and greatest threat to security in the region," an Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Monday.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor categorically rejected that classification.
"If he can quote at least one occasion in which Israel has threatened any of its neighbors with the alleged nuclear weapon, then his statements would gain him credibility," Palmor said. "Unless he produces evidence to support his claims, these kinds of remarks are completely out of line."
Spokesman Hossam Zaki, in a declaration to editors accredited with the ministry, said Egypt's position on disarmament and nonproliferation aimed to safeguard Egyptian security and to address the threats that undermine security and stability in the Middle East, according to Egypt's official Middle East News Agency.
Cairo sought to realize the aims of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to guarantee the security of all states, whereas possession of nuclear weapons by some countries disrupted the balance of power and encouraged other nations to address this imbalance by seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, he said.
Zaki called on the international community to justly and indiscriminately apply the Non-Proliferation Treaty that requires states to comply with its provisions, and asked it to refrain from the adoption of double standards in pressuring states to abandon their programs, he said.
An Egyptian official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Cairo would prefer that Israel pursue diplomacy, rather than a military option, to address Iran's nuclear program.
In a meeting on Sunday with his Philippine counterpart, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt opposed any proliferation in the region and that efforts aimed at shedding light on the Iranian nuclear program must be accompanied by parallel efforts to deal with the Israeli program, according to a report in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram
Mubarak, who turned 81 on Monday, will soon host Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues, including the diplomatic process and threats to the region.
Tensions between Egypt and Iran have been particularly tense recently, with Cairo accusing a 49-member terrorist cell with links to Hizbullah of plotting to carry out attacks in the country.
White House links Iran nukes to Palestinian state
The Obama Administration on Sunday did what Israelis have long feared and pleaded with the US to avoid when White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel linked the resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis to the creation of a Palestinian state.
Speaking at the annual Washington conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Ynet quoted Emanuel as insisting that the ability to confront Iran and reach a diplomatic solution over its defiant nuclear program was solely dependent on progress toward the birth of "Palestine."
Emanuel said that with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scheduled to meet with US President Barack Obama later this month, Israel now faces a moment of truth - it can either acquiesce to international demands and in return have its most serious threats dealt with, or maintain the status quo and have those threats persist.
In its main conference event on Tuesday, AIPAC is scheduled to present the congressmen representing its thousands of members from across the country with a letter urging Obama to take strong action toward the creation of a "viable Palestinian state."
A majority of the congressmen are expected to sign the letter and pass it on to the president.
While the US government and AIPAC have long advocated for the "two-state solution," the focus on that goal seems to be more pronounced since the election of Netanyahu, who has refused to publicly commit to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian Arab state.
Netanyahu insists that the world must take into account the example of the Gaza Strip, which was fully surrendered to the Palestinians, only to become the first territory officially ruled by a recognized terrorist organization and a launching pad for regular attacks on Israel.
Instead of rush into handing the Palestinians sovereignty over any other parcels of land, Netanyahu stated during his election campaign that he wants to boost the Palestinian economy and remove the Palestinians' chief justification for terror - their poor living conditions.
Pope to demand control of Holy Land sites
Long-standing Vatican claims to at least five Christian holy sites in Israel are expected to be near the top of the agenda when Pope Benedict XVI visits the Holy Land next week.
Israel has long rejected the claims, but President Shimon Peres is strongly urging the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to turn the sites over to the Catholic Church in hopes of boosting Jewish-Christian relations.
The sites include:
Debate over future control of those sites is creating significant rifts in the new government, according to Army Radio.
Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said that if turning over the sites would guarantee a major boost in Christian tourism, that would be one thing. But as Catholics have never been strong supporters of Israel, what Peres is asking would essentially amount to "handing out gifts."
Misezhnikov's remarks hit on a point on which most Israelis are typically unclear - Israel does indeed have vast Christian support that is worth bolstering even further, but it does not come from the ranks of the Catholic Church. Rather, Israel's strongest supporters are Evangelical Christians who belong to an array of Protestant denominations and non-denominatinoal groups.
Meanwhile, Israel this week will frantically wrap up preparations for the pope's visit. On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry inaugurated a special website to help visitors navigate the Holy Land and keep tabs on the pope's activities here, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat issued a statement welcoming visiting Catholics to his city, "the heart and soul of the Jewish people."
- The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth;
- the Coenaculum on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, traditional location of Jesus' Last Supper;
- Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives;
- Mount Tabor in the Lower Galilee region; and
- the Church of the Multiplication which lies along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Sudden cancellation of Ahmadinejad Latin American tour without explanation
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
May 4, 2009, 10:14 PM (GMT+02:00)
Ahmadinejad's Latin American tour postponed "indefinitely"
Sunday night, May 3, Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki announced the Iranian president would pay official visits to Brazil, Venezuela and Ecuador from May 7 to 8. Although the US and Israel voiced concern, Brazilian foreign minister Celso Amorim said the visit would go ahead as scheduled.
Twenty four hours later, Iranian news agencies announced the tour by the Iranian president with 110 representatives of 65 companies had been postponed "indefinitely" without explanation. Instead, Ahmadinejad would visit Damascus Tuesday.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Monday (under the heading: Brazil jumps aboard Iran's Latin American bandwagon) that Ahmadinejad and Brazilian president Luiz Inacio da Silva would this week sign deals for selling Iran quantities of uranium, with secret transactions covering nuclear cooperation, reciprocal arms sales and exchanges of nuclear and arms production experts.
Friday, May 1, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dubbed the Ahmadinejad visit to Brasilia "quite disturbing." She said: "I don't think in today's world, where it's a multi-polar world, where we are competing for attention and relationships with the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians, that it's in our interest to turn our backs on our own hemisphere."
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was not the only godfather of the Brazilian-Iranian transaction; another live wire was Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Atomic Energy Commission (as first revealed by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 392 on April 17: Iran Eyes Nuclear Breakthrough with Brazil).
The Russian official tipped Tehran off to the high potential of this connection both for gain and for planting a second large stake in America's back yard.
Last week, Tehran signed a broad military cooperation pact with Caracas and was preparing to continue its march of conquest through Latin America.
Kiriyenko visited Brasilia last October and offered his hosts modern Russian methods for extracting the uranium, new nuclear power plants and superconducting technologies.
Russian scientists surveyed 25-30 percent of Brazilian territory at shallow depths for uranium deposits; even that limited search uncovered reserves of 350,000 tons, which the Russian nuclear czar believed could be increased at least threefold - or as much as ten times over.
Kiriyenko planned to win a concession for developing Brazil's uranium mines by offering its government a big ready-made customer, Iran.