JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants have been trained in Iraq by a group supported by Saddam Hussein to carry out terror attacks against Israel with the knowledge of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a senior Israeli official said Saturday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that Iraqi-backed Palestinian militants were arrested as they tried to enter Israel recently with plans to carry out attacks at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport.
Palestinian ties to Iraq and Iran will be the focus of a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast on CBS Television on Sunday. CBS said in a statement that its report will present what Israel says is proof of these ties, including documents confiscated by Israeli troops during a takeover of Arafat's office earlier this year.
The men the official said were arrested trying to enter Israel allegedly were trained by Mohammed Abbas, known by the nom de guerre Abul Abbas -- an Iraqi-based ally of Arafat who oversaw the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.
Abbas announced in October 2000 that he was resuming attacks on Israel due to the renewed wave of clashes between Palestinians and Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In November 2001, Israeli officials said they had arrested a group linked to Abbas which had planned attacks on targets including Ben Gurion airport and some in Jerusalem.
CBS said Israeli documents indicated that Arafat has supplied money to some members of Abbas' Palestine Liberation Front in the West Bank, though it was not immediately clear if alleged recipients of the funds were involved in guerrilla activity. The group also was long involved in internal Palestinian politics.
The CBS report also says the Israeli intelligence officials said the Palestinians are buying smuggled Iraqi oil in violation of a U.N.-sanctioned embargo.
Israel has long accused Iran of helping the Palestinians through the Hezbollah organization in Lebanon. CBS quoted Israeli intelligence officials as saying some Palestinians interrogated over the past two years have said they were trained in Iran.