Hamas is working to boost its military capabilities in the West Bank, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) warned on Wednesday, revealing that in recent months it had arrested dozens of Hamas terror suspects who belonged to 13 different terror cells operating in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The cells were planning a number of attacks against Israel, including the abduction of an IDF soldier and a suicide bombing in Jerusalem which was thwarted two weeks ago with the arrest of the suicide bomber and the seizure of the bomb he had planned to use in the attack.

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The target was supposed to be an IDF base, mall or bus in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood in northern Jerusalem.

The cell that was plotting the suicide attack was behind the bombing on March 23 outside the Jerusalem Central Bus Station which killed a British tourist and injured 47 others.

The Shin Bet investigation revealed that Hamas command centers in Syria and Saudi Arabia were behind the financing of the attacks. In addition, Hamas terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons were also instrumental in recruiting members of the cell from among Palestinian prisoners ahead of their release, as well as providing them with theoretical military training while still in prison.

The Shin Bet noted that Hamas also operated in Turkey, where it recruited operatives, but that the Hamas branch in Turkey was not involved in operations with these cells.

The cell plotting the attack in Jerusalem was based in Hebron and had manufactured two explosive devices using fire extinguishers loaded with six kilograms of explosives and wrapped in a sheet of metal balls to increase collateral damage upon explosion.

The suicide attack was scheduled to be carried out on August 21 and the cell was also in the advanced stages of plotting the abduction of an Israeli soldier from the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south of the capital. On August 21, the Israel Police closed off all entrances to Jerusalem in search of the bomber and the explosive device, causing major traffic jams.

The Shin Bet and police captured two explosive devices: One in the home of Azhak Arfa, a 23-year-old resident of Ras al-Amud in east Jerusalem, and the holder of an Israeli blue identity card.

Prior to his arrest, Arfa worked in a Jerusalem wedding hall near the Central Bus Station and was recruited into the cell by Hassin Kussama, a 36-year-old resident of Hebron and known Hamas operative and explosives expert, who served as the “engineer” for the cell. A second device was discovered in Kussama’s home in Hebron.

“We see from these cases that Hamas is trying to boost its military capabilities in the West Bank,” a senior Shin Bet official said on Wednesday.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell was funded by Hamas’s political bureau in Damascus run by Khaled Mashaal, which also has branches in other parts of the world, including China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

During the investigation, the Shin Bet arrested Iman Aladam, a 39-year-old Jordanian who served as a senior operative in Hamas headquarters in Damascus and was active in various Hamas operations throughout the world.

Aladam underwent military training in Syria, including in the use of weapons and explosives. He was sent to Hebron earlier this year to deliver money and instructions regarding the planned attack. Aladam was detained as he tried crossing back into Jordan via the Allenby Bridge.

Sayyid Kussama, a 20-yearold Hamas operative from Hebron, was supposed to serve as the suicide bomber.

He was arrested on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on August 22. Another operative, 22-year-old Hassab Abu Shahidam, also from Hebron, was the senior recruiter for the cell and was planning to hide kidnapped Israelis in his grandmother’s home in Hebron. The IDF discovered an electrical shocker and pistol in his possession.

Alternatively, the cell considered transferring the kidnapped Israeli citizen or soldier to Sinai, and taking him from there to the Gaza Strip.

Another cell that was discovered by the Shin Bet was led by Zabar Diab, a 30-yearold resident of Kalkilya, who is currently serving a sentence in Israeli prison until 2014 for involvement in terrorist activities in Israel, including the planning of previously thwarted suicide bombings.

According to the Shin Bet, Diab established the cell in prison by recruiting Palestinians ahead of their release and providing them with theoretical military training behind prison walls.

Another member of the cell, Ihab Sada, was recruited into the cell last July before his release from Ketziot Prison in January. Sada was ordered by Diab to work to obtain weapons for cell members after his release with money provided by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The cell planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier for use as a bargaining chip to release Palestinian prisoners.

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