A view of Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Jerusalem District Court on Monday sentenced three east Jerusalem Arabs for conspiring to carry out shooting and kidnapping attacks against Jews praying on the Temple Mount and security forces posted in the eastern part of the capital.
Jalal Koutoub was sentenced to 13 years in prison for assisting the enemy in a time of war, conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping, two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping for the purpose of murder and other crimes.
Muhammad Shaar was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison and Ahmad Bazalmit was sentenced to 3.5 years, both for assisting the enemy in a time of war and attempted robbery.
It was unclear whether the prosecution would seek longer prison terms on appeal.
The court’s decision did not address the status of the proceedings against the leader of the cell, Nor Hamdan, 24, as well as two other defendants, Omar Vuzvuz and Amjad Raazam. Their sentencing hearings are to take place in approximately two weeks.
After the sentencing, family members of the defendants got into a physical altercation with the court’s security guards. It was unclear whether charges would be filed.
According to his indictment, Hamdan decided in February 2013 to carry out shooting attacks on Jews who came to the Temple Mount to pray and against security forces in east Jerusalem. To accomplish this, Hamdan allegedly recruited the other defendants and others to form a terrorist cell.
The cell members reside in Ras al-Amud and a-Tur in east Jerusalem, as well as the capital’s Old City, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said.
Hamdan made contact with several terrorist organizations in the West Bank and Gaza to receive training, guidance and weaponry, said the indictment.
The terrorist cell met around 10-15 times in February and March and intended to help enemy terrorist organizations in their war with Israel. The cell also planned to kidnap a Jew with a weapon, in order to kill him and steal his weapon for future terrorist activities.
The defendants had set out toward Jerusalem’s Givat Ze’ev suburb and picked up a Jewish hitchhiker who was looking for a ride to Adam, but when they found that he was unarmed, they allowed him to exit the vehicle.
Hamdan, who worked at a store in the Old City, confessed during questioning to planning to open fire on Israelis on the Temple Mount, saying he intended “to defend the AKsa Mosque.”
The Shin Bet added that Hamdan was influenced by videos of past terrorist attacks that he saw on YouTube, particularly the shooting attack on the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in 2008, in which eight Israelis were murdered.
The defendants “began firearms training with a handgun near Kalandiya [in northern Jerusalem],” and planned to travel to Nablus to meat with a member of the Tanzim paramilitary organization to request firearms and funding, the Shin Bet said.
The defendants also planned to steal weapons from police officers in a-Tur, and went on to manufacture pipe bombs, the Shin Bet added.
The Shin Bet said that the cell had come into possession of two handguns, a pipe bomb, and ammunition.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this story.