AMMAN - Jordan accused Hamas yesterday of trying to recruit operatives to undergo military training in Syria and Iran and stage attacks in Jordan, and said that it had found new weapons that included Iranian rocket launchers.
Government spokesman Nasser Joudeh gave reporters details of the plot, which he said were revealed during interrogations of 20 Hamas operatives arrested by security forces last month.
"Hamas was attempting to recruit elements in the Jordanian arena and trying to recruit elements from abroad to send to Syria and Iran to get military training," Joudeh said.
Jordan said last month that rocket launchers, detonators and explosives seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in the kingdom had been smuggled from Syria, where the Palestinian group's exiled leadership is based.
Joudeh said that authorities were still searching for other arms caches that Hamas had hidden across the country.
"The security forces believe there are more weapons and rocket launchers that have not been uncovered yet," he said. "Among the weapons seized recently were Iranian rocket launchers."
"This poses a major threat to the national security of the country, and we will hold those behind this accountable," he added.
After the arms cache discovery, Jordan canceled a planned visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar. A week later, it said that a group of Hamas activists arrested by its security forces were close to staging attacks on senior Jordanian officials on orders from its Syrian-based leadership.
A Hamas leader in Gaza said that Jordan's new accusations were fabricated and aimed at raising tension.
"Hamas is sorry that Jordan is dealing [with Hamas] in this manner, making the issue bigger than it is," said Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri.
Hamas has repeatedly denied accusations that its members are involved in arms smuggling to Jordan from Syria, and has refused to join a committee set up by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to investigate the case with Jordanian officials.
Joudeh said that a team headed by Tareq Abu Rajab, the Palestinian intelligence chief, began talks yesterday with top Jordanian security officials and was shown hard evidence to back up Amman's claims against Hamas. The government said it would soon televise confessions by Hamas operatives to quell widespread suspicion among ordinary Jordanians that the government has trumped up the charges as a pretext to sever ties with the Palestinian group.