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Israel Charges Palestinians With Planning Attacks In Israel With Iran's Backing


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

An Israeli military court has charged three Palestinian men with planning "terrorist" attacks in Israel with backing from Iran, according to Israel's security agency.

Israel's Shin Bet security agency said on January 3 that its agents and the Israeli military had arrested three men from the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

The agency said the group "was run by Iranian intelligence and was recruited and financed by an Iranian intelligence operative living in South Africa."

"It has been learned that Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa as a significant center for locating, recruiting, and operating agents against Israel," the agency said in an English-language statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Hebron group's alleged plot was just the latest attempt by Iran to attack Israel.

"This is not the first time. They are trying various methods, and in various fields, to attack the state of Israel," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying in an English-language statement.

Netanyahu says that Iran is dedicated to Israel's destruction and supports global "terrorists," including the Palestinian Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Lebanon's Shi'ite Hizballah militia.

The Israeli intelligence agency named the alleged ringleader of the Hebron group as Mahmud Makharmeh, 29, a computer engineering student, and said his accomplices were Nur Makharmeh, 22, and Diaa Sarakhneh, 22.

The agency said Mahmud Makharmeh traveled to South Africa, where he met several times with alleged Iranian agents, "several of whom came from Tehran especially to meet him."

He was ordered to recruit suicide attackers and gunmen and to collect and pass on intelligence to his Iranian contacts, who paid him $8,000, Shin Bet said.

It said Mahmud Makharmeh was charged in an Israeli military court with contacting a hostile foreign organization, receiving enemy funds, and attempting to join an illegal organization.

The other two were charged with attempting to join an illegal organization.

In 2015, an Israeli court sentenced an Iranian-born Belgian citizen to seven years in prison after convicting him of spying for Tehran posing as a businessman.

Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali is currently facing execution in Tehran after his October conviction on a charge of spying for Israel.

Djalali has said he is being punished for refusing to spy for Iran while he was working in Europe.

With reporting by AFP and Times of Israel
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