Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Following meetings of special joint-committees between Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry officials, the threat level in Egypt has been raised amid fear of retaliatory attacks carried out by the fugitive members of the Hezbollah “sleeper cell” and attacks carried out against Egyptian foreign interests by the Hezbollah movement.
Egyptian Security expert, Major General Sameh Saif Al-Yazal informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it is highly likely that Iran has connections to the Hezbollah cell uncovered in Egypt, saying “Iran’s relationship with Hezbollah has gone beyond the stage of solid ties into a close relationship which has resulted in long-term military cooperation, in addition to security and intelligence cooperation. Besides this, there is material cooperation…and Iran is Hezbollah’s main financier, whether looking at its normal budget, or at specific missions, such as in this case [with regards to the Hezbollah cell in Egypt].
General Sameh Al Yazal said “It is no secret to anybody that military experts from different Iranian Intelligence and Security agencies have undertaken the training of Hezbollah cadres for operations and various missions. This is not something new, but has taken place over the past several years. Therefore it is not unlikely that Iranian [military] experts are behind the planning or preparation of operations such as the one in question. This cannot be ruled out, and we are inclined to believe that it is true to a large extent.”
General Sameh Al Yazal added “It is not out of the question that after the verdict of the Hezbollah cell in Egypt case is issued that Hezbollah will plan and undertake operations against Egyptian interests abroad…which is something expected by the various security agencies in Egypt, and therefore the increase in Egypt’s alert level was to be expected.”
General Sameh Al Yazal also ruled out any possibility of the remnants of this Hezbollah cell committing retaliatory operations on Egyptian soil, either before or after the trial, saying “There is no possibility of the remnants of this cell undertaking retaliatory operations in Egypt at the present time.”
The fugitive remnants of the Hezbollah cell, are believed to be 13 Lebanese nationals, 7 Egyptians, 2 Syrians and 2 Sudanese nations, and are believed to be hiding out in the Sinai Peninsula, and other Egyptian provinces. General Al Yazal said that it “is unlikely [that the cell] will undertake any operations now, especially since the security services are in possession of all the information about this cell and its remnants, including details on the cell’s targets. Therefore there is no chance that the fugitive remnants of this cell – that is being pursued by Egyptian security services – will undertake any operations at this time.”
On his interpretation of the Iran’s alliance with Hezbollah, and the objectives of the Hezbollah cell operating on Egyptian soil, without the knowledge of Egyptian authorities and contravening Egyptian law, General Al Yazal said “These are plans to obstruct the establishment of a Palestinian state…they are attempts to find obstacles in the face of the Egyptian and Arab effort in this regard [to establish a Palestinian state.]”
He added “It is no secret that the Egyptian – Saudi cooperation to end the Palestinian conflict continues; this cooperation takes place at the highest level between the two countries, and is an attempt to put an end to the obstacles that stand in the way of establishing a Palestinian state. This position is not to the liking of Iran, and by extension Hezbollah, which carries out Iran’s agenda in the region, therefore it is not unlikely that what we are seeing is Iran’s plan and effort to disrupt and halt the Egyptian and Arab march towards solving the Palestinian issue.”
Meanwhile, Well-informed Iranian sources in Cairo have refused once again to comment on the issue of Hezbollah in Egypt and on whether or not Iran played a part in this issue. These sources also refused to clarify what security sources said about two employees from an Iranian satellite channel being implicated in the matter, or whether there were elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards amongst the arrested suspects. These sources only described current relations between Iran and Egypt as “tense.”
The Iranian sources also declined to comment on information acquired by Asharq Al-Awsat about the Egyptian Foreign Ministry summoning the head of the delegation for Iranian interests in Cairo around 48 hours before the details of the Hezbollah in Egypt case had been revealed. A source from the Egyptian foreign ministry told Asharq Al-Awsat Wednesday that the meeting between Hossein Rajabi, the director of the Iranian interest office in Cairo and Mohammed Zarqani, Egyptian Assistant Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs last Thursday was held within the framework of regular consultations between the two sides.
The sources that took part in the investigations with the suspects told Asharq Al-Awsat that the main suspect, Sami Chehab, is considered the “link” between the suspects that are being investigated. The sources added that the prosecution interrogated Hani Abu Mutlaq, Izz al Fahmi, and Nasser Khalil on Tuesday night and that it was apparent from their confessions and statements that Sami Chehab entrusted Khalil with renting out flats in Al Arish and Sheikh Zawid close to the Egyptian-Gaza borders in order to store supplies and to be used as a starting point for those preparing to cross the border to carry out operations against Israel.
The sources said that Chehab did not want to speak in the last interrogation session, which ended in the early hours of Wednesday morning satisfied that “helping the resistance is an honor and that he could not have intended to work against the Egyptian state.”