'Hamas weapons capability increased four-fold over last five years'
A court indictment alleges that engineer Dirar Abu Sisi has contributed significantly to Hamas's weapons capabilities, was instrumental in developing the organization's rocket cache and helped increase the range of Qassam rockets.
The details of the indictment filed Monday against Palestinian engineer Dirar Abu Sisi draw an alarming picture of Hamas' weapons development capability, which has multiplied exponentially in the past five years alone.
After nearly 40 days in Israeli custody, Abu Sisi was indicted on several charges, including terror activity, conspiring to commit a crime and attempted murder.
He was charged with being a confidant of Hamas military leaders and instrumental in developing the organization's rocket cache, with helping Hamas to lengthen the range of their rockets since 2002 and to develop several kinds of armor penetrating missiles.
The details released Monday indicate that Hamas has a well-developed missile industry.
In the past five years, the range of Qassam rockets apparently increased, with Abu Sisi's alleged help, from six to 22 kilometers, though reported attempts to increase the range to 40 kilometers failed. The anti-tank missiles armor penetration capability increased from six to 26 centimeters.
According to the court indictment, Abu Sisi was also developing a mortar shell that could penetrate meter-thick armor and damage even a Merkava tank. It also says Hamas inquired about buying Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and smuggling missiles that could strike at Israeli navy ships.
Abu Sisi, a director of the Gaza Strip's sole power station, says he was abducted in February during a visit to Ukraine and transferred secretly to Israel.
The indictment does not mention how Abu Sisi was brought to Israel, due to the gag order imposed on the case. The German weekly Der Spiegel suggested last week that Abu Sisi was abducted as part of an Israeli bid to find out where Hamas is holding captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. But the indictment makes no mention of Shalit either.
The Shin Bet said in a statement following the indictment that Abu Sisi "divulged valuable information in his interrogation about Hamas' military wing, structure and decision-making processes."
The indictment and the Shin Bet statement portray Abu Sisi as a central Hamas leader, despite his relatives' denials, saying he was merely a senior engineer in Gaza's electric corporation.
While the Shin Bet nicknamed Abu Sisi Hamas' "father of rockets," this should be regarded with some skepticism, considering the public relations campaigns being conducted by both Israel and Hamas, as well as the recent escalation in hostilities between the two sides, which could slide into another military confrontation.
Abu Sisi, 41, disappeared on February 19 from a night train in Ukraine, after six men kidnapped him, his family said, accusing the Mossad of the abduction. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees echoed the accusation.
A few weeks later Israel admitted that it was holding the Gazan engineer and said he was being interrogated by the Shin Bet security services.
Abu Sisi graduated with a Ph.D. in electric engineering from the Kharkov Military Engineering Academy in Kharkov, Ukraine, the indictment says. Prof.Konstantin Petrovich, his mentor at the university and an expert in Scud-missile control systems, gave Abu Sisi access to lessons in which he acquired knowledge in missile development and control systems.
In 2002, senior Hamas official Nizar Rian recruited Abu Sisi to Hamas' weapons developing committee, which the latter headed later on, the charges say.
Abu Sisi is charged with having contacts with Hamas activists Salah Shada, Adnan al-Rol and Rian, all of whom Israel has assassinated, and with Muhammad Def, Ahmed Jabari and Ahmed Randur.
In 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, Abu Sisi was assigned with establishing and heading Hamas' military academy, as part of the lessons from the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the indictment says.
Abu Sisi and Hamas leaders took strict precautions to keep their plans for the academy from Israel, communicating only by text messages from mobile phones they replaced every two or three months, according to the indictment.
During Monday's court session, Abu Sisi denied all charges against him. "I am not guilty," he said. "I have no connection to security operations against Israel, and I have no connection to Gilad Shalit. When they saw I had no connection to Gilad Shalit, they decided to charge me with other security offenses, to which I also have no relation."
Abu Sisi's lawyers said he had signed documents under pressure exerted by the security services, without being aware of their content.
In an earlier court hearing, he told journalists he did not know anything about Shalit's whereabouts and had nothing to do with the affair.
Israel Police requested to extend Abu Sisi's remand until all judicial procedures related to his case are concluded.