The Islamic movement Hamas planned to carry out rocket attacks against high-profile Israeli civilian targets, including the Knesset and Ben Gurion international airport, at the height of its Second Intifada terror campaign, a member of the organization’s military wing who worked on its West Bank rocket production said Wednesday.
The plots came to nothing after Hamas’s rocket-production operation in the West Bank was suspended when Israel launched its Operation Defensive Shield offensive against West Bank terrorists in 2002. The rocket factory, in El-Bireh north of Jerusalem, later burned down in a fire caused by a stray spark.
Salimi told the website that a bank of targets was prepared by Hamas in the West bank, including the Knesset in Jerusalem, Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv and the settlement of Beit El
Ahmad Akram Al-Salimi, a member of Hamas’s Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was recently released from an Israeli prison after serving a nine year sentence for transferring Kassam rocket manufacturing technology from Gaza to the West Bank early in the Second Intifada, which began in September 2000.
Salimi told the Al-Qassam Brigades website that Hamas terrorists in the West Bank prepared a list of targets at the time that included the Knesset in Jerusalem, Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, and the settlement of Beit El.
Salimi moved to the West Bank city of El-Bireh, on the outskirts of Ramallah, from his hometown of Rafah in the Gaza Strip following the targeted killing of Hamas official Mahmoud Abu-Hanoud by Israel in November 2001. In El-Bireh, Salimi manufactured Kassam 1 rockets under the tutelage of Al-Qassam Brigades leader Muhammad Arman.
‘After securing the proper place, we began working seriously to produce these weapons successfully. For the first time we prepared the rocket propellant,’ Salimi told the website
After the first rocket was successfully produced, Arman oversaw the project directly, buying a warehouse to manufacture rockets and time bombs, and renting a car to transport the devices, Salimi said. He added that 20 Kassam rockets were manufactured in the El-Bireh laboratory.
“After securing the proper place, we began working seriously to produce these weapons successfully. For the first time we prepared the rocket propellant,” Salimi told the website.
Operation Defensive Shield, a wide-scale Israeli incursion into the West Bank, launched on March 29, 2002, following the Park Hotel massacre on Passover eve, stalled the rocket manufacturing operation — and thus the plans for attacks on major Israeli targets such as the airport. Salimi said Hamas fighters were spread thin fighting Israeli forces, so the El-Bireh laboratory focused on producing explosive charges, which were more effective in close-range combat with the IDF.
But it was a fire rather than the Israeli incursion that finally shut down the El-Bireh rocket laboratory. A spark touched the explosive material in the workshop and set off a huge blaze, badly burning Salimi. He was evacuated to a local hospital where he spent nearly seven months before being arrested by Israel.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, and has continued to fire rockets across the border into Israel.