Security forces announced on Sunday they had arrested several suspected members of a Bethlehem-based Hamas cell for being behind a bus bomb attack in Jerusalem last month.
A bomb planted on the No. 12 bus in the capital on April 18 wounded 19 passengers. The bomber, Abd Al-Hamaid Abu Sarur, who was born in 1997 and was from the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, died two days later of wounds sustained in the blast.
Members of the cell, who also planned to carry out an additional car bombing and shooting attacks, were arrested in recent weeks in a joint Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), IDF and Israel Police operation. According to the Shin Bet, the cell had accumulated additional explosive materials and weapons for the planned attacks.
The Shin Bet named Muhammad al-Aza, born in 1988 and a resident of Tzahur near Bethlehem, as the bomb maker. Al-Aza, who was jailed in Israel from 2004 to 2007 for plotting attacks on behalf of Hamas, began assembling explosives after watching instructional videos on the Internet, the investigation determined.
“He was helped by his friends, who are affiliated with Hamas, in his attempts to obtain materials needed to manufacture the explosive device. When they completed making the device, they worked together to recruit a suicide bomber and plotted the attack, including how to get the bomber into Jerusalem,” the domestic intelligence agency said.
The investigation also found that, in October 2015, an alleged member of the cell, Muhammad Eia al-Barberi, born in 1988 and a resident of the Gaza Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, carried out a shooting attack from a rental car on an Israeli vehicle in the West Bank. The driver escaped without injury.
An additional suspect, Muhammad Majdi al-Aza, born in 1995 in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, allegedly helped in preparing the bomb and recruiting other members to the cell, including the bomber.
Majdi al-Aza was prepared to act as a suicide bomber, as well, the Shin Bet said, and took part in the planning of an another bombing that was to follow the one on the Jerusalem bus.
The investigation named Ahmed Masiah, who was born in 1997 and is from the Aida neighborhood of Bethlehem, as the person who drove the bomber to Jerusalem on the day of the attack. The bomber’s will was recorded by a suspect named Ali Muhammad Aruj, from the village of Bayad Faluh, near Bethlehem, the Shin Bet said.
An additional suspect, Said Harmas, from Bethlehem, who has served past prison sentences in Israel for security offenses on behalf of Hamas, allegedly took part in the plotting stage and in writing the suicide bomber’s will.
The Shin Bet recovered an improvised weapon from his home during the investigation, which was used in the 2015 shooting attack by Muhammad al-Aza.
Military prosecutors will indict the suspects on a range of serious terrorism charges in the coming days.