British consulate employees in Jerusalem linked to terror attack
Published 04/01/2011 | 15:33
Employees of the British consulate in Jerusalem were arrested by Israeli police investigating a planned terror attack on a sports stadium, it has emerged.
Two Palestinians were charged by a court on Sunday with planning a rocket attack on Teddy Stadium, home to the Beitar football team.
Three more Palestinians, two of them maintenance men employed by the British Consulate General, were arrested on suspicion of supplying them with guns. All five were arrested in November but the details have only now emerged following Sunday’s court hearing.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that security and vetting procedures were being reviewed. He said all employees were vetted in co-ordination with the Israeli authorities “to a level appropriate to their job”.
The Consulate-General plays an important political role in Israel and would be considered a major terrorist target, in common with diplomatic posts elsewhere in the Middle East. However, the authorities have said the men’s arrests had “no connection to their work at the consulate”.
The two men initially charged over the stadium plot, named as Mussa Hamada and Bassem Omari, were said to be members of Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and is in a state of war with Israel. They were also alleged to have received financial support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia.
They were charged with “membership in and support for a terrorist organisation, firearms offences and conspiracy to commit a crime”.
One of the maintenance men arrested has been named as Mohammed Hamada, a cousin of one of those charged with planning the rocket attack, while the other was named as BIlal Bakhatan. The third man arrested was his brother, Oma Hamada.
No rocket was found, and the plot, concocted after the Israeli invasion of Gaza two years ago, was in its early stages, Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, said.
Omari was an Israeli citizen and a resident of Beit Safafa in part of east Jerusalem annexed by Israel. The other four, all Palestinians, also lived in east Jerusalem but did not have Israeli citizenship.
“The two went to a ridge overlooking the stadium in order to select the best place for an attack and carried out reconnaissance of the area, although the planning was not translated into action,” a Shin Bet statement said.
It said the men had acquired pistols and were trying to obtain rifles and explosives.
The Government will be concerned that the arrests will worsen relations between Israel and Britain. The two have clashed in the past year over issues including the use of cloned British passports in an alleged Mossad hit on a Hamas operative in Dubai, and over Israel’s killing of nine Turkish activists on a ship taking aid to Gaza.
The government will be concerned that the arrests will worsen the complicated relations between Israel and Britain.
The two have clashed in the last year over issues including the use of cloned British passports in an alleged Mossad hit on a Hamas operative in Dubai, and over Israel's killing of nine Turkish activists on a ship bringing aid to Gaza in May.