Egyptian security forces recently foiled an Israeli attempt to assassinate former President Hosni Mubarak and other senior Egyptian officials, the Egyptian weekly Rose al-Yūsuf reported on Thursday.
According to the report, the attempt was foiled after the members of the group were arrested. The group numbered four people, including one Egyptian citizen and three Israelis, the report said.
A senior Egyptian security official told Rose al-Yūsuf that the assassination was supposed to be carried out using a sniper, while Mubarak was hospitalized in Sharm el-Sheikh following his ouster earlier this year. The four were caught after one of the group members was arrested ten days ago while trying to smuggle arms into Egypt.
According to the report, the suspect who was caught, Mouaz Zahalka, said in his interrogation that he had received the weapons from a priest in Jerusalem who asked him to transfer to Egypt two crosses in which the arms were concealed. The report further claims that similar ammunition was found in the bodies of those killed in the riots between Coptic Christians and Egyptian security forces earlier this month, as well as in the bodies of people who were killed during the revolution against the Mubarak regime.
According to the newspaper, Zahalka, who was termed “the Israeli spy,” said in his interrogation that he was to deliver the weapons to the Egyptian member of the group, Hatem Abdel-Hamid. Abdel-Hamid reportedly worked as a tour guide for the same company in which another member of the group, Edward Tzicos (who was termed “the Hungarian-Israeli spy”), works. The fourth member of the group is Tzicos’ Hungarian girlfriend.
Rose al-Yūsuf claimed that the four admitted that they were tasked with transferring the weapons to skilled people who were supposed to assassinate presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Dr. Muhammad ElBaradei, as well as former President Hosni Mubarak. Edward Tzicos and his girlfriend received clear instructions from the Israeli Mossad, the report claims, to regularly monitor the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh and prepare for Mubarak’s assassination. The operation was canceled due to the tight security in place at the hospital.
The report also said that Egypt has submitted a formal request to Israel to provide explanations for the supposed assassination plots. According to the report, talks began on October 26 between the two sides to release Egyptian prisoners being held in Israel in return for Zahalka.
The report, which is unconfirmed by other sources, comes on the same day that dual American-Israeli citizen Ilan Grapel was released from an Egyptian jail as part of an exchange for 25 Egyptians held in Israeli prisons.
Grapel, 27, who has been held in Egypt for five months on spying charges, landed at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport shortly after 7PM local time.
There have been unconfirmed reports that the Grapel deal may be followed by additional prisoner exchanges between Israel and Egypt.
Most of these reports have specifically mentioned Ouda Tarabin, an Israeli Bedouin who has been held by Egypt for over 11 years on charges of spying for Israel. However, a senior Egyptian military officer hinted on Thursday that another deal between Israel and Egypt to secure the release of additional Israelis being held in Egypt will soon be implemented.
The officer, Colonel Kamal Mazloum, told an Egyptian television station that the deal to release Grapel has more clauses that have yet to be made public. He did not name any specific prisoners.