July 25, 2004
Israeli security officials have recently become
increasingly concerned that right-wing extremists might be plotting an
attack on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to derail Israel's planned
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The Shin Bet security service and the
police are preparing for a number of possible terror attack scenarios at
the sacred Old City site, Israeli security sources said last night.
Speaking on the Channel Two "Meet the Press" program yesterday, Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi confirmed that the security establishment had identified rising intent among right-wing extremists to carry out a Temple Mount attack.
"There is no information about specific individuals, because the Shin Bet and police would not let them continue [with their plot]," said Hanegbi. "But there are troubling indications of purposeful thinking, and not detached philosophy... There is a danger that [extremists] would make use of the most explosive site, in the hope that a chain reaction would bring about the destruction of the peace process."
Security sources last night said possible actions included an attempt to crash a drone packed with explosives on the Temple Mount, or a manned suicide attack with a light aircraft during mass Muslim worship on the Mount. Other possibilities include an attempt by right-wing extremists to assassinate a prominent Temple Mount Muslim leader, perhaps from the Waqf Islamic trust.
Israeli security sources speculate that the assassination scenario might be chosen, even though it would not cause mass injury or damage to the Al-Aqsa mosque or the Golden Dome shrine. The aim of the Temple Mount attack conspiracy, they said, would be to carry out a visible provocation that sparked violent confrontation in the territories.
Due to stringent security routines at the Temple Mount, Israeli security officials said yesterday, right-wing extremists would find it virtually impossible to use conventional routes to penetrate the site with explosives. Hence, the possibility of a large bomb being planted at one of the Muslim holy sites is "a lower-level possibility."
Yesterday's disclosures about possible Temple Mount terror plans were preceded in recent months by a number of troubling indications. Nine months ago a suspect in a Jewish underground terror group affair, Shahar Dvir-Zeliger, told authorities a prominent West Bank settler activist had planned a Temple Mount attack. Zeliger cited two other names of West Bank settlers, suggesting the two were involved in the Temple Mount attack conspiracy.
Last Thursday, the Temple Mount Faithful group petitioned the High Court, asking to be given clearance to go up to the Holy Site for prayers later this week for Tisha B'Av.