Three suspects of a Hamas terror cell arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on suspicion of planning a kidnapping on Hannuka. .
(photo credit: SHIN BET)
The Shin Bet has foiled a Hamas kidnapping plot in the West Bank in an attempt to use the hostage as a bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails that was planned to take place on the Hanukka holiday, the agency cleared for release on Wednesday.
The cell, which operated from the village of Tel near Nablus and was uncovered during the months of October and November, are accused of planning to kidnap an Israeli soldier or civilian from a bus stop in one of the central junctions near Nablus.
“The Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip served as a financing entity, and the purpose of the attack was to promote negotiations for the release of security prisoners incarcerated in Israel,” read the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) statement.
The ringleader of the cell was identified as Mu’ad Ashtiyeh, 26, who is suspected of acquiring weapons and recruiting the other members of the cell, Muhammad Ramadan and Ahmad Ramadan, both aged 19.
According to the Shin Bet, the cell was in contact with Omar Atzida, a Hamas gunman and a member of the Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip, who is said to be working to promote the mobilization of armed action and the funneling of funds from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.
The cell’s plan was to dress up as settlers from the area, allowing the target to feel secure enough to enter the terrorists’ vehicle.
The Shin Bet investigation also revealed that during the planning of the attack, cell members carried out meticulous intelligence gathering, scoping out popular hitchhiking stops and central junctions.
In addition, as part of the planning of the attack, Ashtiyeh inquired about places in the Nablus area the cell could hide the abducted Israelis in order to conduct the negotiations.
During the Shin Bet interrogation, the weapons that were supposed to be used by the cell members to carry out the abduction were seized, including a pistol, a taser and a gas spray.
“The Shin Bet domestic security agency will continue to act with determination to thwart terrorist cells and terror attacks in advance, with an emphasis on the Hamas terrorist organization, which is constantly working to carry out serious terrorist attacks in Israel,” the statement read.
The results of the investigation have been transferred to the military prosecution in the West Bank to consider issuing charges and indictments against the cell members.
In 2014, a Hamas cell operating in the West Bank kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers from a popular hitchhiking spot in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem.
The IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper in order to find 16-year-olds Naftali Frankel and Gil-Ad Shaer and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah and found their bodies on June 26, two weeks after they were kidnapped.
During Operation Brother’s Keeper the IDF arrested some 350 Palestinians, including several Hamas leaders in the West Bank.
In retaliation of the arrests, Hamas began launching rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza Strip, leading Israel to launch Operation Protective Edge which had the stated intent of stopping the rocket fire.
The 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas lasted seven weeks and led to the deaths of 67 soldiers and six Israeli civilians as well as 2,125 Palestinians, including 936 terrorists.
Two months after the kidnapping, senior Hamas official Salah al-Arouri, considered Hamas’s military commander in the West Bank and since appointed as the group’s deputy leader, said that the organization’s armed wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, was behind the kidnapping.