Mohammed Maharma (left) and Bachar Maharma.
(photo credit: Courtesy Shin Bet)
Iran is actively involved in terrorism against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, in response to revelations that the Shin Bet uncovered an Iranian-backed terrorist network that aimed to carry out attacks against Israelis.
“The activities that have been exposed illustrate Iranian involvement in the encouragement of terrorism against Israel and expose the tentacles that are sent out by Iran to different countries around the world for the sake of promoting hostile activities against Israel,” read a statement released by the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency).
According to the agency, Iranian intelligence recruited 29-year-old Muhammad Maharma, a computer engineering student from Hebron, to carry out terrorist attacks and conduct espionage missions in the West Bank on behalf of Tehran. He was recruited by his relative Bachar Maharma, who has been living in South Africa.
As part of the attempt, Bachar met with Muhammad in South Africa three years ago and introduced him to Iranian handlers, some of whom traveled from Tehran to meet with their recruit.
After meeting with the Iranians, he was instructed to recruit more operatives and to carry out a series of attacks against Israelis, including a suicide bombing and shooting attacks. He was also offered to learn how to handle and assemble explosives and to take part in weapons training.
During the investigation it was discovered that Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa to identify potential recruits and operatives to work against Israel in the West Bank.
He was also asked to recruit an Israeli Arab as well as other Israelis, such as journalists, who have access to various official places in the country.
According to the Shin Bet, Muhammad successfully recruited two Hebron residents, Nour Maharma, 22, and Diaa Srahana, 22, to form a terrorist cell. For his efforts Muhammad Maharma was paid $8,000.
It was uncovered that the plan was for Muhammad to open a computer store in the Hebron area and to use it as the central intelligence gathering base for the operation and to send pictures of the store to his handlers and his cousin Bachar in South Africa.
He was also tasked with transferring an Israeli SIM card and both Israeli and Syrian currency to his Iranian handlers, possibly to fund an attack to be carried out within Israel’s borders.
He was indicted on charges of contact with a foreign agent, receiving funds from an enemy entity and conspiring to form an illegal organization.
The two recruits were charged with attempting to join an illegal organization. Bachar is believed to still be in South Africa.
According to Netanyahu, Iran is engaged in terrorism against Israel “not only by assisting terrorist movements such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, but also in trying to organize terrorist activities inside Israel and against Israeli citizens.”
Israeli officials have accused Iran of growing involvement in funding terrorist groups, such as Hamas, to carry out attacks against the Jewish state. On Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot stated that the Islamic Republic had increased its funding to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the tune of $100 million in order to have more influence in the Gaza Strip.Jerusalem Post Staff and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.