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Tuesday, January 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel arrests Hamas operatives plotting to attack soccer stadium

TEL AVIV — Israel has foiled what officials said marked a Hamas plot to launch a rocket attack in Jerusalem.


The Israeli intelligence community has determined that Hamas was planning a rocket attack on a soccer stadium in Jerusalem. The Israel Security Agency identified at least two Hamas operatives as planners of the alleged attack during a game meant to be attended by tens of thousands of soccer fans.

"The suspects also acquired a number of rifles from east Jerusalem neighborhoods Sur Baher and Beit Hanina in order to carry out additional attacks," an Israeli statement said.

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The Hamas cell was said to have been aided by two employees of the British consulate in Jerusalem, Middle East Newsline reported. The consulate employees were charged with trying to smuggle the rockets for the Hamas cell.

The Hamas detainees were identified as Mussa Hamada and Bassem Omeri, arrested in November. An indictment in a Jerusalem court alleged that Hamada and Omeri, residents of Jerusalem and Hamas operatives since 2007, conducted surveillance of the stadium and examined ways to fire the rocket.

"The two suspects' activities included systematically checking how best to launch a rocket while the stadium was crowded with people during a game," a military statement said on Jan. 2. "The two visited a hillside across the stadium in order to survey the area for their attack."

Officials said Hamas began planning the rocket attack in wake of its war with Israel in January 2009. They said Hamada visited Saudi Arabia several times since 2009 and raised money for operations against Israel. One Saudi donor was identified as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition party in Egypt.

"In one of the meetings, the Saudi man gave Hamada money both to purchase the weaponry and acquire intelligence about different sites in Jerusalem," the statement said.

Officials said the Hamas cell did not acquire a rocket. They said the cell did procure assault rifles for additional attacks against Israeli targets.

Earlier, the Palestinian Authority asserted that Hamas had been accumulating rockets for attacks in the West Bank. Hamas was said to have stored rockets in the Ramallah area.

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