JERUSALEM – Israel today revealed it arrested three terrorists on their way to set up Qassam rocket manufacturing abilities in the West Bank, sparking fears Palestinian groups will soon be able to fire rockets and mortars at nearby Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The arrests of the terrorists, members of the umbrella group Popular Resistance Committees, follow a WorldNetDaily interview last week in which the Committees spokesman warned his organization transported missile technology from Gaza to the West Bank and is planning to fire rockets and mortars at Jewish homes in the West Bank, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israel said it caught the three Committees members crossing from Egypt into the northern Negev, and said interrogations revealed they received funds and training from Hezbollah to set up Qassam factories in the West Bank. The Committees is a network of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah terrorists responsible for many of the rockets that have been fired from Gaza. The three were reportedly caught carrying a computer memory drive containing information prepared by Hezbollah on the manufacturing of bombs.
According to Israel’s Shin Bet Security Services, one of the terrorists confessed to launching Qassam rockets against Israel in Gaza and carrying out numerous bombing and shooting attacks, including involvement in planting a roadside bomb in 2002 near a Gaza Jewish community that killed three Israeli soldiers.
Another one of the nabbed terrorists specialized in bomb making and Qassam rocket technology, and admitted to involvement in developing anti-aircraft missiles and various kinds of other bombs, the Security Services told reporters.
The arrests made front-page headlines in Israel today, reported by most newspapers here as some of the first concrete evidence since Israel’s Gaza withdrawal last month that Palestinian terrorists were planning to fire rockets or mortars in the West Bank.
But WorldNetDaily reported exclusively earlier this month Israeli troops said they arrested an Arab at a West Bank roadblock near Jerusalem with a mortar shell and launching mechanism. Security sources told WND at the time the arrest was “very sensitive,” allegedly because a gag order was immediately placed on the case. The arrest has not yet been reported by the Israeli media.
Although hundreds of mortars and Qassam rockets have been fired at Jewish communities in and near Gaza the past few years, a mortar launched from the West Bank – parts of which are within firing range of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – would mark a significant escalation in Palestinian terrorism.
Disclosure today of the arrests of the three Committees terrorists follows a WorldNetDaily interview in which Abu Abir, the Committees spokesman, boasted his group transported missiles to the West Bank.
“If there is need, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and everywhere in Israel can become our target. Israelis must also know that we have already transferred the knowledge and the technology of producing rockets to the West Bank,” Abu Abir said.
Abu Abir told WND his group has “improved [our] capacities in shooting these rockets. Even the Israeli officers agreed that the improvement is at all levels. To begin with, the distance that these rockets can reach, the capacity of explosives and their accuracy. In the last five years, there is no doubt that our abilities have improved.”
WND also recently reported a research center associated with Hamas announced last month in a published study the terror group views Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza as a victory for “Palestinian resistance” and will now continue the next phase of its “war to destroy the Jewish state” by focusing on rocket and mortar attacks in the West Bank.
According to the Al-Mustaqbal Research Center in Gaza, Hamas and other “Palestinian resistance groups” will extend their rocket-producing capabilities to the West Bank since Israel’s security barrier in the area has made terrorist infiltrations and suicide bombings difficult.
“After the construction of the fence, [suicide attacks] have become extremely difficult. … However, Qassam attacks cannot be stopped easily. … [T]he fence is useless against such attacks,” states the study, which said Palestinian groups will move mortars and rockets into the West Bank “in large quantities.”
Said a security official, “The arrests [disclosed today] are extremely disturbing and go along with repeated statements by the Palestinian terror groups that now that they got Gaza, they will transfer their infrastructure to the West Bank, which they will focus attacking until Israel vacates.”