Hamas terrorists who broke into Israel were carrying instructions on how to make chemical weapons, according to Israeli President Isaac Herzog.
Israeli forces claim they discovered the material on the body of a dead fighter in Kibbutz Be’eri, where an estimated 20% of the 1,100 residents were killed or kidnapped.
The documents, complete with diagrams, were shown to Sky News by President Herzog in an exclusive interview on Sunday evening.
Sky News is unable to independently verify the claims.
“It’s Al Qaeda material. Official Al Qaeda material. We are dealing with ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hamas,” Mr Herzog said. “This is how shocking the situation is where we’re looking at the instructions that are given on how to operate and how to create a kind of non-professional chemical weapon with cyanide.”
The intelligence, which has been declassified, shows the ingredients needed to make a chemical bomb. Sky News has taken the decision to blur some of the material.
Mr Herzog was speaking in his first British broadcast interview since he became president.
Asked whether he understands why many Israelis are angry and feel they’ve been let down by the government and security forces, Mr Herzog agreed.
“Absolutely. I hear it all day long. I hear it from families all day long and I hear it from refugees, those who have had to leave and are now in hotels and other places around the country and shelters, only with a simple bit of clothing and that’s it. People are very, very frustrated and clearly very angry and justifiably so.”
But he wouldn’t point the finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet: “Because we are at war, because we have to overcome, because we are rising like a lion, because we have to defend our people and change reality, we will deal with all of that after the war.”
Mr Herzog dismissed accusations that Israel’s bombing of Gaza is having a disproportionate effect on civilians and argued that Israel has no choice but to eliminate Hamas.
“It’s not true. We have realistic objectives. We say we want to wipe out the military infrastructure of Hamas. We’ve said it clearly. We are cautious. Already two weeks have gone by, and we haven’t operated on the ground because we are cautious.
“I cry for the lives of Palestinians but first and foremost I cry for the lives of my nation.”
More than 4,500 people have been killed in 16 days of Israeli airstrikes, according to figures from the Hamas-controlled health ministry.
The United Nations and other humanitarian organisations operating in Gaza have said there is a humanitarian emergency in the Strip but Herzog claimed “most of Gaza” is “functioning”.
“The problem is that part of the infrastructure, part of the aid is hijacked by Hamas. It’s very easy to blame Israel.”
Link between Hamas and Al Qaeda in planning attack far from clear
Sky News cannot independently verify the claims made, but they were shown during an interview with Israel’s president and we must take them at face value.
We have sent the documents to a British chemical weapons expert – his assessment is that they show ingredients that could build a credible chemical weapon.
“Al Qaeda spent a lot of time and effort developing a chemical weapon based on cyanide,” says Hamish de Bretton Gordon, former head of the UK military’s Chemical, Biological and Nuclear Weapons regiment.
“Cyanide is a blood agent and AQ developed a chemical weapon using these types of chemicals.”
President Herzog also showed us an image with the Al Qaeda and Islamic State logos, suggesting a direct link between the groups.
It’s not impossible, but certainly given Islamic State’s current strength, and past ideology that separated them from any other group, it’s unlikely those links would be strong, if at all.
The methodology might be similar, but it’s far from clear whether there were direct links between the groups in the planning of the 7 October attacks.
Pushed on what happens to Gaza if Israel achieves its objectives and wipes out Hamas, Mr Herzog said that is the decision of Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Reality is shattered. People are asking themselves deep questions. Is it possible? Can I make peace with a neighbour who wants to chop my children’s heads off? Is it feasible?”
“I can’t go into this [a two-state solution] right now when my nation is bleeding, and in pain, and in agony.
“I’m always thinking about what kind of vision we can create. I believe in the inclusion of Israel in the region. As a part of the process we need to find a way to have a further life with the Palestinians, but not when they celebrate the fact that so many thousands of Israelis are being killed in the most horrendous terror attack in modern times.”
Following the interview with Sky News, the president’s office released a statement with further details about the discovery of the documents.
The documents were found on a USB stick on a dead Hamas fighter, they claimed. The source was an Al Qaeda manual dated 2003, they said.