The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) thwarted an attempt by a Hamas-affiliated terror group to set up a cell in the West Bank to kidnap Israelis, security forces announced on Wednesday.
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The terror plot was directed by Palestinian security prisoners, in Israeli prisons, the Shin Bet said, adding that “those involved were in their first stages of planning the attack.”
A security source told The Jerusalem Post that the point of the plot was to enable a Gazabased terror group to gain operatives from the West Bank, who could then use their own contacts outside of prison to organize a kidnapping.
The domestic intelligence service named Muhammad Bel, 24, of Zeitoun in Gaza – doing time in the Eshel Prison since 2008 – as a suspect who recruited two Palestinian prisoners from the West Bank for the plot.
The recruits have been named as Ali Harubi, 21, of Dora, near Hebron – serving a sentence for being a member of a military terrorist cell, planning attacks, and manufacturing bombs and Molotov cocktails – and Rajab Salah al-Din, 53, of Hamza, near Ramallah – a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in prison since May 2012 for three failed kidnapping attempts.
The three suspects confessed to the plot during questioning, the Shin Bet said, and were charged in late December with terrorist offensives at the Beersheba District Court.
The investigation revealed that the highest levels of the Kataib al-Mujahadin (“Holy Warriors Brigades”) terror group were involved in the planning stages of the attacks.
Bel was in touch with a liaison in Gaza, named Amar Khalil Kassam, 29, who is in charge of dealing with prisoners, and who answers directly to the head of the organization.
“The Holy Warriors Brigade is a terror group that splintered off from Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and adopted extremist Islamist characteristics,” the Shin Bet said.
It is headed by Assad Abu Sharia, 36, a resident of Gaza and terror operative, who took over the group in 2007 after his brother, Omar Abu Sharia, the former leader, was killed in an IAF strike in Gaza in 2006.
The group is in close touch with Hamas in Gaza, and in recent years has been involved in rocket attacks on Israel, shootings against the IDF, and setting off bombs on the Gaza border, among other activities.
Cooperation with Hamas includes training and assistance as well as financial support, weapons transfers for attacks and the smuggling of arms to Gaza.
“We can say that in effect, the Holy Warriors Brigades is a Hamas front-group in every way,” the Shin Bet said.
In 2012, a member of the group, who was in Israel illegally, was arrested before he could attempt to carry out his intention of kidnapping an Israeli civilian.
In January 2013, four Palestinians from the West Bank, some of them students who had studied in Egypt, joined the group and received military training in Gaza – to prepare them for attacks against the IDF and settlers in the West Bank.
“The recent thwarting of this plot, and the investigation, uncovered, again, attempts by the Holy Warriors Brigades to expand its field of operations to the West Bank, in order to serve its master, Hamas,” the Shin Bet said.
Hamas is interested in initiating attacks far from the Gaza sector, in order to preserve the appearance of keeping its side of the truce with Israel, in place since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, it said.