Daily Israel Report

Jerusalem Arabs, Hebrew U. Students Were an al-Qaeda Cell

One of the suspects collected info in attempt to shoot down a helicopter carrying a senior official during US President Bush's visit to Israel.
By Zeev Ben-Yechiel
First Publish: 7/18/2008, 1:56 PM

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Israeli police have arrested and charged six Israeli-Arabs, among them Hebrew University students, for planning an Al-Qaeda attack on a senior US official. The group, including four residents of eastern Jerusalem, are suspected of operating an al-Qaeda cell in Israel's capital and planning to shoot down a helicopter carrying a senior US official.

The six suspects were identified by police as:

  • Ibrahim Nashef, 22, of Tayibe: Physics and computer sciences student at the Hebrew University; 
  • Muhammad Najem, 24, of Nazareth: Chemistry student at the Hebrew University;
  • Anas Shawiki, 21, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber;
  • Kamal Abu Kwaider, 22, of Jerusalem's Old City;
  • Yusef Sumarin, 21, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina;
  • Ahmed Shawiki, 21, of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat.

Police and prosecutors charged all the suspects with membership in a terror organization. Some of them will also be tried for aiding the enemy at a time of war, possessing propaganda material, promoting a terror organization, and soliciting others to join a terror organization.
 
The indictments, filed against them on Friday, reveal that the six used to meet at the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. They allegedly surfed al-Qaeda websites, where they found instructions for producing explosive devices.

Eyeing Bush's Chopper
Najem watched the landing ground as a Presidential helicopter touched down in the course of President Bush's January 2008 visit to Israel, with the intent of shooting it down.

According to evidence, one of the detainees, Muhammad Najem, lived in a Hebrew University dormitory overlooking the university's stadium, which also serves as a helicopter landing pad. Najem watched the landing ground as a Presidential helicopter touched down in the course of President Bush's January 2008 visit to Israel, with the intent of shooting it down. At the same time, the suspect allegedly sought instructions on the internet for shooting down a landing helicopter, and he took mobile-phone pictures of the presidential helicopter's landing. A "senior American official" was on board the helicopter at the time.

The six arrests are the culmination of a joint police and Shin Bet operation.

Bush Changed Plans
During the visit, the United States revised travel plans by President Bush because of the threat of a missile attack, according to a World Tribune report from January 9.

The report stated, "Israeli sources said the U.S. Secret Service canceled Bush's plans to travel by helicopter from Ben-Gurion Airport to Jerusalem on Wednesday. The sources said the Secret Service determined that Bush's helicopter could be targeted by an attacker with a surface-to-air missile."

The arrests follow the arrest and indictment of two other Israeli-Arabs suspected of being Al-Qaeda operatives. The men, indicted Wednesday, are Bedouin residents of the Negev town of Rahat.

Taher and Omar Abu-Sakut are registered members of the Islamic Movement and supplied handlers with sensitive information about strategic facilities in a June operation involving the Shin Bet, Israeli police and Border Guard units.