(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced on Thursday that it foiled an attempt by Hamas to establish a cell in the West Bank to carry out terrorist attacks.
According to the agency, the activity that was discovered was “different from Hamas’s efforts in recent years, both in terms of its scope and in its potential danger.”
The investigation found that the cell was directed by senior Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip who pressured the cell members – who had been trained in preparing explosive devices and instructed to target civilians – to carry out the attacks “as soon as possible in order to bring about an escalation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank at the same time.”
The cell was uncovered following the arrest of 25-year-old Owes Rajoub, a resident of the city of Dura 11 km. southwest of Hebron on August 23, after he shared his plans to carry out attacks with a number of his friends and family members.
His interrogation revealed that he had been recruited by an activist from the Gaza Strip who had approached him shortly after Ramadan. He suggested that Rajoub join Hamas’s military wing, and that he would send him material on manufacturing explosive devices which could be remotely detonated.
He was then instructed by his handler on August 11 to go to a drug store in Ramallah to collect a mobile phone to serve as their main way of communicating. A few days later he was instructed to meet with an operative in the Bethlehem area to get a password and additional information for using the phone he had been given earlier.
He was then instructed to meet an elderly Gazan woman who had come into Israel for medical treatment. According to the Shin Bet, the woman gave Rajoub a pair of pants in which his handlers had secreted instructions. He began to receive training on preparing explosive devices via video clips sent to him by his handlers, as well as by video conversations with a bomb expert.
Rajoub then recruited two other Hamas operatives from the village of Beit Khalil Betir to help him manufacture the bombs. He had been instructed to complete them by the end of September, and carry out the attack inside the Green Line at a shopping mall, hotel, train or bus by early October.
“The activists in the West Bank were instructed to prepare explosive devices using advanced explosives which have not been used in the West Bank so far,” read the Shin Bet statement.
According to the agency, Hamas “cynically” used Gaza residents with permits to enter Israel for humanitarian reasons to carry messages between operatives.
“Hamas cynically used Gazans who were authorized to enter hospitals in Israel for life-saving treatment, as well as Gazans who were asked to send messages to recruits in Judea and Samaria,” read the statement, adding that “this is not the first time Hamas has exploited the humanitarian medium to carry out military operations in the West Bank.”
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