An attempt on the life of then-foreign minister Shimon Peres in 2001 was foiled by Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas who worked for more than a decade as a Shin Bet security service agent, according to a soon-to-be-released book.
The plot, concocted by senior Hamas terrorist Abdullah Barghouti, is revealed in Yousef's book "Son of Hamas," the full story of which will be published in Friday's Haaretz Magazine. One of his former Shin Bet handlers confirmed his role in thwarting the plot on Peres, who is now president, and also in foiling a plan to assassinate another senior Israeli official.
The incident highlights the essential role that Yousef, whose handlers nicknamed him "the Green Prince," played in the Shin Bet's war on terror.
According to Yousef, Abdullah Barghouti received funding and even approval for his operations from Marwan Barghouti, a senior official in the Fatah organization. The two Barghoutis are not directly related.
In summer 2001, neither the Shin Bet security service nor the Israel Defense Forces knew anything about Abdullah Barghouti. They were utterly in the dark over who had made the unprecedentedly powerful bombs used in two major attacks that summer - on the Dolphinarium club in Tel Aviv in June and on the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in August.
According to Yousef, the first clue to the identity of the Jordanian "engineer" came from the CIA, which told the Palestinian Authority that Barghouti was a deadly bomb-maker and was currently living with a relative, Bilal Barghouti, a wanted man from Hamas. The PA's Preventive Security Service, headed by Jibril Rajoub, arrested both men and kept them in protective custody in Bitounia, not far from Yousef's house.
Following American pressure on the PA to stop the terror attacks, Marwan Barghouti was asked to rein in Abdullah - who was essentially a freelance terrorist, but worked most often with Hamas. Therefore, when Marwan went to talk with Abdullah, he brought along Yousef's father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef. Mosab served as his father's driver.
Sheikh Yousef, according to Mosab, warned Abdullah that if there were more attacks like those on the Dolphinarium and Sbarro, Israel would invade the West Bank - and Abdullah would suffer for it. He therefore asked Abdullah to refrain from further attacks.
Abdullah responded that he had already sent four bombs to Nablus, where someone was supposed to attach them to cars that would then be put into position near Peres' car and blown up, killing him. However, Abdullah added, he did not know who had taken charge of the bombs; all he had was a phone number.
He agreed to call the number and abort the operation, but Marwan Barghouti did not want his phone used for the call, and neither did Sheikh Yousef. So they decided to buy a new cell phone and destroy it after the call.
Mosab was the one who actually bought the new phone - and immediately told the Shin Bet what number to eavesdrop on. He then gave the phone to Abdullah, who made the call, with the Shin Bet listening to every word. Thus the plot to kill Peres was foiled. This incident also prompted the Shin Bet to beef up security for all Israeli Knesset members.
Due to American pressure, Abdullah Barghouti remained in PA custody for several months. But then, following Israel's assassination of Raed Karmi in January 2002, Israeli-Palestinian relations deteriorated further, and Marwan Barghouti pressed Rajoub for Abdullah's release. The day Abdullah was freed, Marwan met with him, gave him $2,000 and told him to disappear and "do what he had to do," Mosab said.
Abdullah evaded arrest for more than a year before the Shin Bet finally nabbed him in March 2003.
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