JERUSALEM, May 16: Israeli authorities released without charge five Jews they had suspected of planning to fire an anti-tank missile at the Al Aqsa Mosque, the justice ministry said on Monday. The men, described by police as extremists without the means to acquire a missile or the expertise to fire one, had hoped an attack on the Haram Sharif would trigger anti-Israeli violence and stop a planned Israeli pullout from Gaza, police said.
A ministry official said prosecutors had weighed charging the group with conspiracy to commit a crime, but decided such a case would not hold up in court.
“There was no evidence the suspects committed any crime, and it appears they changed their minds and dropped the plan even before they were arrested,” the ministry said in a statement released after a judge lifted a gag order. Police said the men had scouted possible launching sites for an attack on the Al Aqsa Mosque and also weighed throwing grenades at police and committing suicide after firing a missile.
“They climbed onto rooftops of the Jewish and Muslim quarters (in Jerusalem’s Old City) to find one overlooking the Temple Mount,” said a separate statement issued by police.
The men were released more than a month ago. Their lawyer said the group fell victim to a sting operation by a security agent.
Israel has stepped up security around Haram Sharif in the run-up to the planned evacuation in mid-August of all 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank.
Police also gave details of a case involving a 60-year-old Israeli suspected of planning to fly a remote-controlled model aeroplane over Haram Sharif to provoke Arab violence that would derail the Gaza pullout. He was also released without charge. Israeli media quoted him as saying he had no idea how to operate such an aircraft.—AFP