Mamilla mall in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Two Hamas members who plotted to bomb the Mamilla mall in downtown Jerusalem during the High Holy Days in 2013 were convicted Monday by the Jerusalem District Court of terrorism charges.
The two – Ahmad Rishak, 23, from Shuafat, and Ismail Abu Mfalfal, 27, from Abu Dis – were indicted in September 2013. The court’s three-judge panel comprised Judges Zvi Segel, Ben Tzion Greenberg, and Arnon Darel.
Both men were convicted of conspiracy to aid an enemy during war and attempted manufacturing of a weapon.
They were not charged with attempted murder, which carries a more serious sentence, because they were caught early in the planning stage.
They and other Hamas members from Ramallah and Jerusalem were led by Hamdi Romana, 22, of Ramallah, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said.
During the investigation by the IDF and the police, security forces uncovered an explosives lab in Romana’s home, including instruction manuals on how to construct bombs, the Shin Bet stated.
During questioning, Romana confessed to being in contact with three other residents of the Ramallah area who provided him with bomb-making equipment. They have since been arrested and have pleaded guilty, security forces said.
It was around March 2013 when Romana recruited Rishak and Mfalfal for the plot.
Making use of their Israeli ID cards, he instructed them to smuggle the bomb into Israel, the Shin Bet said.
Rishak was recruited first, and on orders from Romana, Rishak eventually engaged Mfalfal, the indictment said.
Mfalfal assisted with several aspects of the plot, including the providing of approximately 40 iron balls for the bomb in order to increase its lethality.
Rishak and Mfalfal, who were employed as maintenance workers at the mall, were planning to smuggle the bomb into the commercial center and hide it in a closet.
In July 2013, they were ordered to plant the bomb in a restaurant, store, or trash can and to cover it with wrapping paper, in order to make it look like a gift in preparation for the upcoming Jewish holidays, when the mall would be packed with shoppers.
One scenario included wrapping the device in a box of chocolates and placing it in a garbage can, according to the indictment.
“During questioning, members of the terrorist cell mentioned other initial plans to carry out additional attacks, including harming IDF soldiers by booby-trapping homes in Ramallah, manufacturing and firing rockets at Israeli communities near Ramallah, and attempting to get hold of handguns to fire on soldiers at the Hizma roadblock, northeast of Jerusalem,” the Shin Bet said.
More specifically, the indictment stated that, while visiting the YMCA in Jerusalem, Rishak asked Mfalfal to get him a gun that could be used to attack soldiers.
The domestic intelligence agency said the investigation uncovered high motivation among West Bank terrorist cells, led by Hamas, to carry out attacks in Israel.
The investigation highlighted the significant danger posed by attempts to exploit Israeli ID card-holders, who enjoy freedom of movement, in order to attack.
The West Bank Hamas wing carried out two previous attacks using Israeli ID-holders to plant explosives: a bombing near the Jerusalem Convention Center in 2011 and a bus bombing in Tel Aviv in 2012.