An Israeli-Arab from Tira, Rawi Sultani, was indicted Monday morning for conspiring to kill senior Israeli officials, among them IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.
Sultani, 23, was arrested by Israel Security Service investigators and the international crimes unit of the Israel Police, and he admitted under questioning that he had planned to kill the Chief of Staff after he began working as an agent of Hizbullah. Sultani was indicted on a number of charges, including contact with foreign agents, conspiracy, and aiding and abetting enemies of the state.
According to the indictment, Sultani attended a "summer camp" in Morocco, sponsored by the Israeli-Arab political party Balad. At the camp, Sultani was befriended by a senior Hizbullah terrorist, Salaman Harab, who successfully recruited him to become a member of the terror group.
Sultani told Harab that he had information on how Hizbullah would be able to "get" one of Israel's top defense figures – Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who worked out at the same gym in Kfar Sava that he did. Ashkenazi worked out according to a set schedule, and Sultani said he knew when the Chief of Staff would be at his gym, making it easy to set up an attack against him, he told Harab.
After returning home to Tira, Sultani was summoned in December 2008 to a meeting in Poland, where he met with Sami, Salama Harab's brother and also a top Hizbullah terrorist. Sami Harab asked Sultani for information he had gathered on IDF troops movements and bases, and then asked him for details on Ashkenazi's gym schedule.
He also requested information on the Chief of Staff's gym membership, hours, guest attendance and security officials who might be at the gym with Ashkenazi – information that Sultani willingly handed over, the indictment says. Sultani was given a computer encryption program that would allow him to communicate with his Hizbullah handlers.
Upon his return to Israel from the Poland trip, Sultani kept in touch with both Harab brothers and other Hizbullah terrorists – by e-mail, Facebook and by phone. Israeli security officials got wind of the plot and were able to trace it to Sultani and his Hizbullah friends. Sultani was under investigation for months.
As a result of the information gathered in the Sultani case, police have been questioning other Israeli-Arab participants in the Balad Party camp in order to determine whether they also were recruited by Hizbullah for terror attacks. According to Israeli security officials, Hizbullah has been tirelessly attempting to recruit Israeli-Arabs in order to undertake attacks to avenge the death in Syria of Hizbullah mastermind terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Israel has denied involvement in that attack.
MK Ben-Ari: Declare Balad Illegal
In a letter to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz Monday, MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) demanded that he declare the Balad party illegal. "Those who kept quiet during the spy activities of Bishara, and refused to declare Balad illegal then, are now witness to the development of a movement that has gone completely out of control and works from within the Knesset to destroy Israel," the letter stated.
Sultani is being defended by his father, Fuad Sultani, who said that his son is either making the story up or is being framed. "The indictment has been blown up out of proportion for political purposes. My son was just bragging that he knows the Chief of Staff, but of course he does not know him. The defense will be examining this indictment closely," he said.
Security officials said that it was no accident that Sultani was recruited by Hizbullah at a Balad-sponsored camp: Former Balad chairman ex-MK Azmi Bishara fled the country after the Second Lebanon War in light of allegations that he sold information to Hizbullah about IDF troop movements and the location of sensitive installations during the war. The elder Sultani also represented Bishara during several legal proceedings surrounding the former MK's resignation from the Knesset.