The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday sentenced four east Jerusalem Arabs for conspiring to carry out shooting and kidnapping attacks against Jews praying on the Temple Mount and against security forces posted in east Jerusalem.
Tuesday’s sentencing was the second time prison terms were set for those plotting the Temple Mount attack, with a first round of sentencing having occurred on November 30 against three other east Jerusalem Arabs for similar crimes.
The jail sentences were a mixed bag, with defendants being convicted of crimes and receiving jail time but all being acquitted of the worst crimes like attempted murder.
The head of the cell, Nor Hamdan, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for contact with a foreign agent, illegal military training and crimes related to illegal weapons possession and development.
Hamdan’s deputy, Imah Shaar, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for similar crimes, though without a conviction for contact with a foreign agent and with an additional conviction of obstruction of justice.
Omar Vuzvuz and Amjad Razam were each sentenced to 10 years in prison for similar crimes, but without either the contact with a foreign agent or obstruction of justice charges.
It was unclear if the state prosecution would seek longer prison terms on appeal or take the victory of the convictions and the not-insubstantial prison sentences.
On November 30, Jalal Koutoub, Muhammad Shaar and Ahmad Bazalmit were sentenced for involvement in the same plot
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 a murder and other crimes.
Shaar was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for assisting the enemy in a time of war and attempted robbery, while Bazalmit was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for conspiracy to assist the enemy in a time of war and attempted robbery, as well. Neither were sentenced for any murder or kidnapping-related crimes.
One additional defendant’s name is still under gag order, but was listed as having been sentenced to 32 months in prison in a press release by the court spokesman’s office.
According to the indictment describing the defendants’ plot, Hamdan decided in February 2013 to carry out shooting attacks against Jews who pray at the Temple Mount and against security forces in east Jerusalem.
To accomplish this, Hamdan allegedly recruited the defendants, among others, to form a terrorist cell.
The cell’s members reside in Ras el-Amud and E-Tur, in east Jerusalem, as well as the capital’s Old City, said the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Hamdan made contact with several terrorist organizations both in the West Bank and Gaza to receive training, guidance and weaponry, said the indictment.
The terrorist cell met some 10-15 times in February and March and intended to help terrorist organizations in their war with Israel.
Next, the cell planned to kidnap a Jew carrying a weapon, in order to kill him and to steal his weapon for future terror activities.
The defendants had set out toward Givat Ze’ev and picked up a Jewish hitchhiker in their vehicle 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 in the Temple Mount, saying he intended “to defend al-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 Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav in 2008, in which eight Israelis were murdered.
The defendants “began firearms training with a handgun near Kalandiya [in north Jerusalem],” and planned to travel to Nablus to meet with a member of the Tanzim faction of Fatah to request weapons and funding, the Shin Bet said.
The defendants also planned to steal weapons from police officers in E-Tur, and went on to manufacture pipe bombs.
In one incident, the defendants even scouted out what they believed was a police vehicle and started to position themselves to ambush the vehicle, but were caught off guard by police (who did not fully suspect what the defendants were planning) and abandoned the plan, the indictment said.
The Shin Bet said that the cell had come into possession of two handguns, a pipe bomb, and ammunition.
The incidents occurred in early 2013, an the terrorists were indicted in April of that year.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this story.