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Brotherhood members in Jordan accused of planning attacks on Israelis

20 questioned over plan to smuggle arms into West Bank, Al-Jazeera reports; crackdown coincides with Shin Bet exposure of Hamas cell

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian school students take part in a military march organized by Hamas national security in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flas90)
Palestinian school students take part in a military march organized by Hamas national security in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 27, 2014 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flas90)

Jordanian security forces arrested 20 men on suspicion of forming a military wing and planning to smuggle arms into the West Bank to be used in terror attacks against Israelis, an Arab news channel reported this week.

The men, all members of the Muslim Brotherhood or Jordan’s engineers’ guild, were arrested after two of the 20 returned from a solidarity visit to the Gaza Strip where they received military training, according to Qatar-based al-Jazeera.

The satellite channel reported Sunday that the men attempted to train others in military operations to be carried out against Israelis in the West Bank.

They also collected money for the purchase of weapons to be smuggled into the West Bank, or bought in the Palestinian territory.

It was not clear from the report when the 20 were arrested.

The arrests come as tensions between the Jordanian regime and the Islamist organization peaked last month, when the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy secretary-general Zaki Bani Irsheid was arrested on November 21 over derogatory comments he posted on Facebook against the United Arab Emirates.

In a Saturday, July 21, 2012 photo, the Deputy of Islamic Action Front (IAF) Zaki Bani Irsheid speaks during an interview to the Associated Press (photo credit: AP/Raad Adayleh)
In a Saturday, July 21, 2012 photo, the Deputy of Islamic Action Front (IAF) Zaki Bani Irsheid speaks during an interview to the Associated Press (photo credit: AP/Raad Adayleh)

According to Al-Jazeera, the Jordanian arrests coincided with a similar Israeli crackdown in the West Bank, where a ring of 30 operatives guided from Turkey was exposed late last month.

Two of the operatives arrested, engineers Abdulla Zeitawi and Muhammad Jabara, have Jordanian citizenship.

The Hamas cell had planned a series of terror attacks, including on Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium during a soccer match, according to the Shin Bet security service.

Saleh Al-Arouri, the Turkey-based Hamas official accused of financing the cell, rushed this week to deny that his movement was active anywhere outside the Palestinian territories.

“Hamas has committed not to operate from Jordan or in Jordan,” Arouri told Al-Jazeera. “Jordan is not an area of activity for it, and Jordan’s security agencies know our commitment to this. Our sphere of activity and resistance is Palestine, and our enemy is the Zionist occupation.”

Hamas is considered a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt.

Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri (photo credit: YouTube screenshot)

Jordanian mainstream media has downplayed the arrests, likely fearing backlash from a general public extremely hostile to Israel.

But Muslim Brotherhood newspaper As-Sabeel reported that an engineering student, Muhammad Qandil, was arrested on Sunday night at his home in Suwaylih north of Amman, and his personal computer confiscated. The newspaper reported that 15 other engineering students and activists had been arrested and were undergoing investigation.

During a meeting with a visiting British parliamentary delegation, Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Al-Majali said that the kingdom is “exerting great effort to maintain its security and the security of the region by protecting the borders with neighboring countries to prevent crimes and decrease the threat of terror organizations,” the official Petra News Agency reported on Tuesday.

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