The Shin Bet intelligence agency thwarted a Hamas plot last month to kidnap and murder Israelis and trade their bodies for Palestinian prisoners, security forces said on Thursday.
Residents of Hebron and Jerusalem residents were arrested on December 15 in a joint Shin Bet, IDF and Israel Police operation. Six suspects allegedly planned to copy the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014.
“The infrastructure was at an advanced stage of planning, and [they] began preparing a hiding place for the bodies of the kidnapped victims,” the Shin Bet said.
Those arrested, suspected of taking part in the planning, were three Arabs with Israeli residency in Jerusalem, and three from Hebron.
Security forces named Ziad Abu Haduan, 20, a resident of the Old City in Jerusalem, as head of the cell. He was released from custody in October 2015 after serving a prison sentence for violent offenses on the Temple Mount. Haduan “immediately returned” to terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said.
Maher Kuwasma, 36, from Hebron, another cell leader, served a two-year sentence in an Israeli prison in the past for plotting terrorist attacks on behalf of Hamas.
The suspects met in Hebron last year and plotted a range of attacks, the Shin Bet said. Kuwasma trained the Jerusalemites in preparing bombs. The Jerusalem-based suspects also sought firearms for shooting attacks in the capital, security forces said.
But they settled on a kidnap and murder plot that would have targeted an Israeli citizen.
The suspects “examined caves, and dug pits in the Hebron area where they had plotted to hide the body of the kidnap victim. They had planned to use two vehicles. The kidnap vehicle was to have been driven by Jerusalem resident Amar Rajbi, 22, also from the Old City,” the Shin Bet said.
Rajbi’s fluent Hebrew was expected to assist in the abduction.
Other cell members planned to manufacture bombs for an attack, had begun purchasing chemicals and fertilizers, and had tried unsuccessfully to assemble bombs, the Shin Bet said.
“This episode proves once again the ambition by Hamas to carry out severe terrorist attacks these days, despite the distress of the organization.
Their goal is to turn the recent wave of terrorism into a violent intifada,” the Shin Bet said. •