The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) uncovered a recent plot by Palestinian prisoners to kidnap Israeli soldiers and use them as bargaining chips for the release of imprisoned terrorists, the domestic intelligence agency announced on Sunday.
The plot, orchestrated by Palestinian prisoners serving life sentences, targeted IDF soldiers in the Huwara , Ariel and Yitzhar junction areas, the Shin Bet added.
The investigation took place over the past two months, and found that the prisoners had planned to orchestrate kidnappings in April.
The plot was led by a Fatah terrorist, named by the Shin Bet as Abd Al-Rahman Athman, from the Palestinian village of Majdal Bani Fadal in the northern West Bank. Following his interrogation, the prisoner’s two brothers – Ahmed and Nazia Athman, as well as his brother in law, Nader Zin Adin – were arrested.
The investigation, which was joined by the Prisons Service and the police, then reached a second prisoner serving a life sentence, Atzam Zin Adin, who was Al-Rahman Athman’s partner in a deadly shooting attack in 2006 that killed an Israeli citizen.
Security forces said the investigation revealed how suspects began discussing a kidnapping plot in 2012. They sought funding from another prisoner, who made contact with Hamas in Gaza, which agreed to pay for the attack. Additional prisoners, who were about to be released, were subsequently recruited to carry out the kidnapping.
The prisoners used smuggled cellphones to send instructions to recruits on the outside, as well as letters smuggled by visiting relatives.
Al-Rahman Athman’s relatives were ordered by the plot’s masterminds to prepare a hiding place, purchase arms, buy anesthetizing chemicals and prepare a stolen vehicle. They were also told to visit Saudi Arabia, where they were supposed to meet an operative who would have given them funds for the kidnapping.
“Indictments against all of those investigated and [who] were involved in the planning of the attack, have been submitted to the Salem Military Court,” the Shin Bet said.
The past two years have seen a significant increase in the number of kidnapping terrorist plots being hatched by Palestinian security prisoners, it added. This includes the abduction and murder of Tomer Hazan in September 2013, and an attempt by an Islamic Jihad cell from Jenin to kidnap a soldier in Israel in January 2013, which was thwarted by security forces at the Eyal checkpoint, northeast of Kfar Saba.
The terror cell had been on the ground for two days searching for a kidnapping target before the Shin Bet arrested its members.