Yaakov Katz
The Jerusalem Post
August 31, 2009 - 12:00am

Hizbullah recruited an Israeli-Arab and ordered him to collect intelligence on IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi ahead of plans to assassinate him to avenge the death of the guerrilla group's military leader Imad Mughniyeh.

On Monday, an indictment was filed at the Petah Tikva District Court against Rawi Sultani, a 23-year-old Israeli-Arab from the town of Tira, alleging that he was recruited by Hizbullah in the summer of 2008 when he traveled to Morocco to attend a Balad Party summer camp.

The pan-Arab summer camp takes place every year in a different country, and was also attended by other Israeli-Arabs who are Balad activists.

During his stay at the camp, Sultani allegedly met Hizbullah operative Salman Harab, and provided him with information about Ashkenazi, particularly his routine at the Kfar Saba country club where the two occasionally worked out together.

The predominantly Arab town of Tira is just north of Kfar Saba, Ashkenazi's hometown.

Harab, a 26-year-old Lebanese Shi'ite Hizbullah operative, met personally with the group of Israeli Balad activists, introduced himself as a Hizubllah member, and gave them a lecture about the conflict and struggle against Israel, read the charge sheet.

Harab is also suspected of showing the group a video from Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV station about the Second Lebanon War.

In his interrogation, Sultani, who was arrested on August 10, told the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) that during the meeting with Harab at the summer camp, he told the Hizbullah operative that he had information about Ashkenazi. Sultani allegedly remained in touch with Harab after returning to Israel from Morocco, through his phone and via the Internet.

The Shin Bet and Israel Police International Serious Crimes Unit learned of the plot by tracking Sultani's email and Facebook correspondence with Hizbullah.

In December 2008, Sultani allegedly flew to Poland and met a Hizbullah operative known as 'Sami.' At the meeting, he is said to have presented 'Sami' with information he had collected about the IDF chief of staff, as well as on different ideas he had conjured about how to assassinate Ashkenazi.

Sultani also allegedly provided 'Sami' with information about other senior Israeli officials and about IDF bases in Israel.

After returning from Poland, Sultani kept in touch with both 'Sami' and Harab, according to the indictment.

Sultani's father and lawyer, Fuad Sultani, said that his son was innocent and that the indictment had been "inflated for political reasons."

The attorney said his son wasn't aware the men he met were Hizbullah agents, and that his meeting with 'Sami' in Poland was "a regular conversation between two students."

The Shin Bet has also questioned the other Israeli-Arabs who attended the camp in Morocco and who were in touch with Harab. After they denied maintaining contact with Harab, they were warned by the Shin Bet and were released

In a rare move, the Shin Bet on Monday released a photograph of Hizbullah Harab.

The plot against Ashkenazi is believed to have been part of Hizbullah's efforts to avenge the February 2008 assassination of Mughniyeh in a car bombing in Damascus. While Israel did not claim responsibility for the assassination, Hizbullah has declared its intention to avenge Mughniyeh's death by striking at Israel.

According to latest intelligence assessments, Hizbullah is believed to be in the midst of planning a retaliatory terror attack against Israel. According to foreign reports, a plot to bomb the Israeli embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan was recently foiled.

The assessment in the Israeli intelligence community is that Hizbullah would like to assassinate a senior Israeli official but is also trying to launch an attack overseas that will not have its direct fingerprints on.


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