British staff ‘held for Israel football terror plot’ | The Times

03/01/2011 18:16

British staff ‘held for Israel football terror plot’

The alleged plot involved a planned rocket attack on Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

James Hider Jerusalem
January 4 2011 12:01AM

Two Palestinian men employed by the British consulate in Jerusalem have been arrested and charged in connection with an alleged plot to fire rockets into the city’s football stadium during a soccer match, officials said yesterday. Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, said the two men had helped members of the Islamist group Hamas to smuggle weapons and explosives. The alleged Hamas members had
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article2861580.ece Page 1 of 3

British staff ‘held for Israel football terror plot’ | The Times

03/01/2011 18:16

already chosen a hilltop near the Teddy Stadium to find a launch site for at least one rocket. The consulate employees were both maintenance men and were identified as Mohammed Hamada and Bilal Bakhtan. Israeli officials said they were charged with weapons trafficking. “We have been told by the Israeli authorities that the investigation into our two employees is unrelated to the work they do at the consulate,” a spokesman for the Foreign Office said in London, adding that Britain trying to confirm exactly what the charges were. The Israeli police this week lifted a gagging order on the arrests of the two suspected Hamas men, identified as Mussa Hamada and Basem Omri, both of them Israeli citizens. It was not immediately clear whether the two Hamadas were related. Although no rockets were found, the police said the men were engaged in preliminary planning to fire on a Premier League football match at the 21,000-seat sporting venue in the southeast Malha district of the city. The choice of target may have been symbolic — the stadium is named after Teddy Kollek, the first Israeli mayor of Jerusalem after the east was captured by Israel in 1967. It is the home ground of Beitar Jerusalem, a team whose supporters have long been known for their rightwing political leanings. The police said the two suspected Hamas activists had been linked to terrorist activities since Israel’s offensive into the Gaza Strip in late 2008, which left around 1,400 Palestinians dead. They were indicted by Jerusalem District Court of membership of a terrorist network, illegal possession of weapons and conspiracy to commit a crime. Mussa Hamada was accused of meeting Islamist extremists during trips to Saudi Arabia, where was also allegedly given money to further his operations in Israel. The indictment of two of its consular employees will be a serious embarrassment to Britain, whose ties with Israel have already been strained by Israeli anger that its senior politicians and military officers cannot visit London for fear of arrest. The British Government has promised to close a legal loophole that allows pro-Palestinian activists to have arrest warrants issued for senior Israeli officials on war crimes charges, but has so far failed to push the legislation through parliament. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, was ambushed during his first visit to Israel when officials in Jerusalem announced that the strategic dialogue with Britain was suspended because Israelis could not visit London to discuss collaboration on anti-terrorist issues. And last week, Israel’s Defence Ministry accused a London-based pressure group of links to Hamas and of “terror-related activities”. It said that the Palestinian Return Centre was “initiating and organising radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe, while
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article2861580.ece Page 2 of 3

British staff ‘held for Israel football terror plot’ | The Times

03/01/2011 18:16

delegitimising Israel’s status as a nation among the European community”. A recent report by the Reut Institute, a right-wing think tank close to the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, dubbed London the “hub of hubs” in an international campaign to delegitimise Israel. Israel believes Britain is not as tough on extremist groups as the United States, and the report stated that London had been specifically targeted by anti-Israeli groups because “Britain maintains close ties with Commonwealth countries and the EU, and enjoys a ‘special’ transatlantic relationship with the US,” as well as being one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

© Times Newspapers Ltd 2010 Registered in England No. 894646 Registered office: 3 Thomas More Square, London, E98 1XY Contact us | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | RSS | Site Map | FAQ | Syndication | Advertising Version 1.9.0.31 (14414)

Share
Close In order to view this article, the recipient must be a subscriber to thetimes.co.uk LinkedIn Twitter

Email Article
Close In order to view this article, the recipient must be a subscriber to thetimes.co.uk Your name Your email address Recipient's email address Please enter a short message if you wish (maximum 300 characters)

Send

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/middleeast/article2861580.ece

Page 3 of 3