JERUSALEM – The new Egyptian government has refused to share important intelligence information with Israel, including details of a terrorist plot against Israelis thought to be imminent, WND has learned.
Last week, officials in Jerusalem warned of the possibility of Hezbollah terrorist attacks against Israeli targets overseas, saying “a planned attack is already in motion,” Israel’s Channel 2 reported.
Security officials here believe Hezbollah is not planning an attack so large that it would lead to another war with Israel, but they said the Iranian-backed group would attempt a hard hit on overseas Israeli targets in the immediate future.
In light of the immediate threat, Israel requested an exchange of information on Hezbollah with Egypt’s intelligence apparatus, but Cairo refused to cooperate, according to security officials here who spoke to WND.
The officials said such information sharing was routine under the previous regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
The officials said Egypt is thought to have an important bank of information on Hezbollah cells, particularly in the Sinai desert following the arrests and interrogations several months ago of a major Hezbollah cell accused of plotting against Mubarak.
WND reported the vast majority of that cell escaped from Egyptian prison in February amid the chaos then engulfing Mubarak’s regime.
Members of the cell were arrested in June 2009. At the time, Egypt’s public prosecutor, Abdel-Magid Mohammed, announced the country had arrested 13 alleged Hezbollah agents on suspicion of planning attacks inside Egypt.
In 2009, WND was first to report Iranian soldiers aiding the Hezbollah members were nabbed in Egypt.
A senior Egyptian security official, speaking from Cairo, told WND in 2009 his country had information Hezbollah cells – working with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – had been coordinating terrorist activities inside Egypt with al-Qaida elements known to be present in the Sinai.
The accusation that Iranian-backed agents were working with al-Qaida could not be verified by Israeli security officials. If accurate, it would mark a major turning point for Hezbollah, which has openly clashed with al-Qaida over ideology. Hezbollah espouses a strict Shiite Islamic belief system, while al-Qaida adheres to fundamentalist Sunni Muslim beliefs.
Al-Qaida has been blamed for a string of major, deadly suicide bombings inside Egypt the past few years mostly targeting hotels and other tourist sites. The Egyptian government previously has admitted it was likely al-Qaida was still operating in the Sinai.
The Egyptian security official speaking to WND said the Hezbollah-Iranian agents in Egypt were working with al-Qaida to plot attacks against tourist sites, particularly those known to be popular with Israelis.
According to separate informed security officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Hezbollah, working directly with Iran, began setting up cells inside Egypt at least two years ago. The cells consisted of well over 80 agents, said the sources.
The goals of the cells operating in the country include plotting to destabilize the Egyptian regime to advance Iranian interests, planning attacks against Israelis at tourist sites, aiding Hamas in Gaza and establishing a base of Iranian operations along the strategic Suez Canal.
The pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Egypt arrested the chief of the Hezbollah cell, identified as Sami Shehab. The newspaper claimed Shehab confessed his cell monitored tourist sites in the Egyptian resort cities of Taba, Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh, and tracked Israeli ships passing through the Suez Canal.
Latest signs of Egyptian militancy
The purported refusal of Egypt to share intelligence information with Israel comes amid fears in the country of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood seeks to restore the Islamic caliphate, a political empire that once ruled the Middle East. Both Hamas and al-Qaida are Brotherhood offshoots.
Earlier this month, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who had previously announced his intentions to run for the presidency of Egypt, said “if Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime.”
The same day, Egypt’s foreign minister said Cairo was ready to re-establish diplomatic ties with Tehran after a break of more than 30 years, signaling a clear shift in Iran policy since the fall of Mubarak.
“The Egyptian and Iranian people deserve to have mutual relations reflecting their history and civilization,” said Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby after meeting with Iranian official Mugtabi Amani.
Days after Mubarak stepped aside, Egypt allowed the passage of two Iranian warships through the strategic Suez Canal for the first time since 1979.
Also WND reported last month the Egyptian military command met with Hamas to discuss ways to build a better relationship with the Islamist organization.