Saturday , June 22 2024

Jordan ‘foils arms plot’ as caught in Iran-Israel shadow war


AMMAN: Jordan has foiled a suspected Iranian-led plot to smuggle weapons into the US-allied kingdom to help opponents of the ruling monarchy carry out acts of sabotage, according to two Jordanian sources with knowledge of the matter.

The weapons were sent by Iranian-backed militias in Syria to a cell of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan that has links to the military wing of Palestinian group Hamas, the people told media. The cache was seized when members of the cell, Jordanians of Palestinian descent, were arrested in late March, they said.

The alleged plot and arrests, reported here for the first time, come at a time of sky-high tensions in the Middle East, with an American-backed Israel at war in Gaza with Hamas, part of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance” network of proxy groups built up over decades to oppose Israel.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hamas said it had “no ties to any acts targeting Jordan” and that it only sought to target Israel.

The two Jordanian sources, who requested anonymity to discuss security matters, declined to say what acts of sabotage were allegedly being planned, citing ongoing investigations and covert operations.

They said the plot’s aim was to destabilize Jordan, a country that could become a regional flashpoint in the Gaza crisis as it hosts a U.S. military base and shares borders with Israel as well as Syria and Iraq, both home to Iranian-backed militias.

The sources didn’t specify what weapons were seized in the March raid, though said in recent months security services have thwarted numerous attempts by Iran and its allied groups to smuggle in arms including Claymore mines, C4 and Semtex explosives, Kalashnikov rifles and 107mm Katyusha rockets.

Most of the clandestine flow of arms into the country has been bound for the neighbouring Israeli-occupied West Bank Palestinian territory, according to the Jordanian sources. However, some of the weapons – including those seized in March were intended for use in Jordan by the Brotherhood cell allied to Hamas militants, they said.

“They hide these weapons in pits called dead spots, they take their location via GPS and photograph their location and then instruct men to retrieve them from there,” said one of the sources, an official with knowledge of security matters, referring to the modus operandi of the smugglers.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a transnational Islamist movement, of which Hamas is an offshoot founded in the 1980s. The movement says it does not advocate violence, and Jordan’s Brotherhood has operated legally in the kingdom for decades.

Jordanian authorities believe Iran and its allied groups like Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are trying to recruit young, radical members of the kingdom’s Brotherhood to their anti-Israel, anti-US cause in a bid to expand the Tehran’s regional network of aligned forces, according to the two sources.

A senior representative of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood confirmed that some of its members were arrested in March in possession of weapons but said whatever they did was not approved by the group and that he suspected they were smuggling arms to the West Bank rather than planning acts in Jordan. “There is dialogue between the Brotherhood and the authorities. They know if there are mistakes it’s not the MB, only individuals and not MB policy,” said the representative.

Another senior figure in Brotherhood, who also requested anonymity, told media the arrested cell members had been recruited by Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri, who masterminded the Palestinian group’s operations in the West Bank from exile in Lebanon. Arouri was killed by a drone strike in Beirut in January in an attack widely attributed to Israel. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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