A group of 26 Hizbullah terrorists were convicted Wednesday in Egypt's emergency state security court, including the head of a terrorist cell that has been operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian prosecutors said two weeks ago they would seek the death penalty against Sami Shehab, who had planned attacks against Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula and was planning to smuggle Iranian weapons into Gaza for Hamas terrorists. Also known as Mohamed Youssef Mansour Ahmed, he was present in a cage in the court room when he was sentenced to a term of 15 years in prison. Shehab admitted earlier to being sent to Sinai on the orders of Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
Two weeks ago, an unusually severe alert was issued by the Israeli National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Bureau, bluntly warning citizens to locate their loved ones traveling in the Sinai Peninsula, and persuade them to immediately return home to the Jewish State. Hizbullah vowed two years ago to take revenge upon Israel, including abroad, following the February 2008 assassination in Damascus of the group's number two commander, Imad Mughniyeh. Israeli intelligence agents have foiled numerous attempted attacks by the group since then.
Shehab's attorney, Lebanese lawmaker Emile Rahme, called the verdict “unjust and cruel.” In a statement faxed to the Reuters news service in Beirut, Rahme said, “This verdict can be described as a politicized verdict. It cannot be described as a judicial verdict. If the court had stayed away from politics, then it would have ruled my client innocent.” Rahme has close ties with the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
Others in the group, which included Palestinian Authority Arabs, as well as Lebanese nationals, Egyptians and one Sudanese, received varying prison terms. Three were sentenced to life in prison, some were sentenced to six months in jail. Several were convicted in absentia.
Justice Adel Abdel Salam Goma'a said in handing down the decision that investigators had proved the group intended to “strike Egypt's economy, destroy the bonds between its people and create chaos and instability throughout the country,” Reuters reported.
Egypt has been criticized by Hizbullah as a “partner in crime” with Israel in allegedly supporting the blockade of Gaza. Cairo has responded by saying that Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah is acting as a proxy in the region to serve the interests of others, presumably Iran, which generously funds the terrorist organization and supplies it with arms.