Rumour: Hamas planned to strike Knesset, Ben Gurion Airport
Former Hamas operative says efforts to build Qassam rockets began at beginning of intifada
Hamas planned to carry out Qassam rocket attacks on prominent Israeli sites, including the Knesset and Ben Gurion airport during the al-Aqsa intifada, according to a former terrorist who was recently released from an Israeli prison and returned to Gaza after serving nine years for transferring rocket manufacturing technology to the West Bank.
An interview with Ahmed Akram Salmi was posted on Hamas’ military wing Al-Qassam Brigades website of on Wednesday, which exposed his efforts to manufacture Qassam rockets in the West Bank after studying methods in Gaza.
In the early part of the decade, Salmi said he joined one of Hamas' military wing cells led by senior operative Mohammed Arman, who was linked to various terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Rishon Lezion and later sentenced to 36 life sentences in prison.
Salmi settled in West Bank city of El-Bireh and worked on manufacturing Qassam 1-type rockets following the targeted killing of Hamas official Mahmoud Abu-Hanoudby Israel in November 2001.
The Qassam 1 rocket has a range of up to five kilometers, according to Ynetnews.
Arman personally oversaw the operation and after the first rocket was successfully produced, he purchased a warehouse where they produced rockets and explosives, as well as a car which was meant to transport the explosives into Israel.
“After securing the proper place, we began working seriously to produce these weapons successfully,” said Salmi. “For the first time we prepared the rocket propellant.”
The cell manufactured close to 20 Qassam 1 rockets ready to be fired, according to Salmi, who said that during the early days of the intifada, Hamas terrorists in the West Bank prepared a list of targets that included the Knesset in Jerusalem, Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, and the settlement of Beit El.
The plots failed to amount to anything after the rocket-production operation was suspended. Salmi says that when Israel launched its Operation Defensive Shield offensive against West Bank terrorists, following the Park Hotel massacre on the eve of Passover in 2002, this posed an obstacle too large to continue production.
The factory in El-Bireh was burned down in a fire caused by a stray spark after pipes accidentally detonated the explosives, according to the former terrorist. Salmi says he was badly burned during the incident and spent nearly seven months in a local hospital before being arrested by Israel.