TEL AVIV ø Israeli security sources said Hizbullah has recruited members of at
least one major Israeli Arab party. The party was identified as the Balad
movement, led by Knesset member Azmi Bishara.
The sources said Hizbullah recruited and organized an insurgency cell
from senior members of Balad in 2003. They said the cell was financed,
trained and equipped to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets.
On Sunday, the Israel Security Agency reported the arrest of the
suspected cell, based in the area around the northern city of Nazareth, Middle East Newsline reported. The
two key operatives of the cell were identified as Ghassan and Sirhan
Atmallah, arrested in January 2004.
The security sources said Ghassan and his brother Sirhan were recruited
by Ibrahim Ajwa, head of the Abu Mussa group in Jordan. Ajwa has been
identified as a recruiter for Hizbullah.
The Atmallah brothers traveled to Turkey in December 2003, to meet
Hizbullah agents. The two Israelis were then sent to Lebanon for training in
the use of weapons, bomb assembly and detection of surveillance.
"During conversations in Turkey, Atmallah discussed the following with
Hizbullah terrorists: establishing a terrorist infrastructure among Israeli
Arabs that would be financed by Hizbullah and under its military guidance,
preparing a list of candidates for military training, types of war materiel
that Sirhan would need," the ISA statement said.
At one point, the sources said, Sirhan sent a shipment of diapers from
Turkey to Israel's port of Haifa. The sources said the shipment was meant to
determine Israeli security at the port.
"He [Ghassan] began to develop several business ventures with Turkish
merchants in order to provide cover for his deals on behalf of Hizbullah,"
the statement said.
In late January, the ISA raided the Balad headquarters and carted off
computer disks and documents. Balad has denied any link to Hizbullah.
Ghassan, held in administrative detention three times on a range of security
offenses, is a member of Balad's central committee.
Israeli security sources said authorities broke up six Israeli Arab
insurgency cells during 2003. They said Hizbullah has made major inroads in
the Israeli Arab community in the north, often recruiting Arab citizens by
offering them illegal drugs from Lebanon.
"The investigation of the Atmallah brothers revealed an attempt to
establish a terrorist infrastructure among Israeli Arabs, which was financed
and guided by Hizbullah in order to perpetrate terrorist attacks inside
Israel," the ISA said.