The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested nine members of an east Jerusalem terrorist cell allegedly responsible for a string of firebombings in the capital’s Beit Hanina neighborhood that wounded three Israelis.
The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed two indictments against the nine suspects at the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday.
The indictments covered a range of charges, including firebombing, attempted murder, causing serious bodily harm, conspiracy and manufacturing and igniting a weapon.
The suspects were arrested two weeks ago, following an investigation in coordination with the Jerusalem Police, although the arrests were not made public until Sunday due to a gag order. Several of the defendants’ names are still under the order because they are minors.
The police said that the suspects confessed that the attacks were carried out in “retaliation” for the July 31 West Bank firebombing in Duma, purportedly carried out by Jewish extremists, that killed an infant and his father from the Dawabsha family, and critically wounded two other family members.
The indictments alleged that shortly after learning of the Duma firebombing, Imad Bakri and C.C. drove to a Paz gas station in Beit Hanina and paid NIS 50 to purchase a gallon of gasoline. They then picked up Wahid Bakri and B.B. The four suspects then together assembled 13 firebombs.
They met up with Arab-Israeli Wasim Mohammed Salah Kostiro, 19, (who previously served a prison sentence for terrorist activity), Mahdi Siaj and D.D.
At around 6:00 p.m., Imad Bakri, Wahid Bakri, B.B., C.C. D.D., Siaj and Kostiro together threw several firebombs at a residential compound in Beit Hanina inhabited by Jewish families, called Beit HaShiva. The firebombs burned the northern wall as well as the field next to the compound.
In another attack that took place on August 3, the group allegedly arranged for Kostiro, A.A. and B.B. to throw firebombs at passing traffic on Route 20, while C.C.
was posted as a look-out for any approaching security forces.
As C.C. was delayed, Mohammed Hussam Sayid Kirash, 18, took his place. The group set out together from their homes at around 7:30 p.m.
The cell originally intended to attack cars traveling from Beit Hanina toward Route 443, but noticed that the cars were moving too fast to provide a good chance of a successful attack.
As a result, the group moved to a different spot where vehicles were moving slower as they traveled from Route 443 toward Pisgat Ze’ev. As they moved, the cell hid near the road, hiding themselves alternately behind a mosque and a truck.
At around 7:55 p.m., three members of the group threw firebombs at a vehicle driven by Jews and stopped at a red light on the heavily trafficked Ben-Zion Exchange.
The cell identified the passengers as Jews after seeing a kippa atop one of their heads.
The firebombing forced a 27-year-old woman, Inbar Azrak, and her husband, Uri, to flee the burning vehicle.
Inbar was treated for severe burns over 15 percent of her body.
A soldier who attempted to put out the blaze was also wounded.
A third victim, a pedestrian, was wounded when the car struck him before coming to a stop.
Police said that the firebombs thrown by Kostiro and the two minors, aged between 16 and 17, all struck the car. Kirash, they said, confessed to serving as a lookout.
The members of the cell fled the scene after the attack.
“The actions of the members of the cell and their outcomes illustrate once again – and even more strongly – the high threat level of terror attacks in Jerusalem, posed, in particular, by the actions of those formerly jailed for similar activities,” the police statement said.
Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edri praised the cooperation between Shin Bet and the police investigators who made the arrests. He vowed to continue to aggressively pursue terrorists in the capital.
“These are serious and life threatening incidents, and we will continue to diligently work to find and arrest law breakers that endanger the public’s lives in order to bring them to justice and protect the lives of the city residents and its visitors,” he said.