Shin Bet thwarts bus bombing by Gazan with work permit

The announcement comes 24 hours after two bombs placed at bus stops in Jerusalem killed a teenager and wounded at least 22 more people.

Photo of explosive material handed over during the investigation of the Gaza resident suspect, November 24, 2022. (photo credit: SHIN BET)
Photo of explosive material handed over during the investigation of the Gaza resident suspect, November 24, 2022.
(photo credit: SHIN BET)

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Thursday said it had thwarted a bus bombing by a Gazan with a permit to work in Israel.

The agency arrested 31-year-old Fathi Ziad Zakot, a resident of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, late last month. Palestinian Islamic Jihad recruited Zakot to plant a bomb on a bus in the South.

The bomb and other materials were seized by security forces.

According to the agency, Zakot underwent explosive training by terrorists in the Hamas-ruled enclave and had begun collecting explosive materials to assemble the bomb while he was in Israel.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad believed to be responsible for attack

The Shin Bet said the investigation revealed that the attempted attack was directed by Jihad Na’am, a senior Islamic Jihad official in Rafah. The investigation also found that two of his relatives, both activists of the terrorist group, had recruited him to carry out the attack.

 Photo of explosive material handed over during the investigation of the Gaza resident suspect, November 24, 2022. (credit: SHIN BET) Photo of explosive material handed over during the investigation of the Gaza resident suspect, November 24, 2022. (credit: SHIN BET)

The indictment said that while he initially refused to carry out the attack, “after a persuasive conversation, he relented.” He initially thought to place a bomb in an event hall or shopping mall. He later decided to place the bomb on a bus that he used to take while in Israel.

The indictment also said that during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, after an attack on a weapons warehouse that had been in the home of a Islamic Jihad operative, Zakot stored rocket-propelled grenades in his brother’s home and made sure to return them to the organization’s operatives when there was a lull in the fighting. He also assisted the group in moving concrete slabs from an Islamic Jihad position to the opening of a cross-border attack tunnel used by the group in 2016.

A Shin Bet source said Israel holds Hamas responsible for the thwarted attack.

“Israel will not allow attempts to exploit civilian measures [such as work permits] by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to promote terrorist attacks and will deal with these attempts severely,” the source said.

Following the attempted attack and on the recommendation of the Shin Bet and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the entry permits for 200 residents of the Gaza Strip who are related to terrorists will be denied until further notice.

Security forces will also consider additional measures to stop attempts at using civilian measures to carry out attacks.

“The investigation illustrates once again that terrorists in the Gaza Strip are investing a lot of effort in establishing terror infrastructures to undermine regional stability, including taking advantage of work permits issued by the State of Israel for the purpose of promoting military activity.”

Shin Bet

“The investigation illustrates once again that terrorists in the Gaza Strip are investing a lot of effort in establishing terror infrastructures to undermine regional stability, including taking advantage of work permits issued by the State of Israel for the purpose of promoting military activity,” the Shin Bet said.

In June, Israel increased the number of labor permits for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by 2,000 for a total of 14,000. Defense Minister Benny Gantz had earlier announced that Israel would allow 20,000 Gazan workers into Israel to ease some restrictions on Gaza’s civilian population in exchange for quiet in the South.

On Thursday, Gantz said terrorist groups taking advantage of the permits “endangers the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of residents in the Gaza Strip.”

“We are conducting an ongoing assessment of the situation, and if it appears that there is a trend of recruiting workers from Gaza to carry out attacks, Israel will consider its steps in the context of the workers from the Gaza Strip and other civilian measures,” he warned.

An indictment was filed against Zakot on Thursday with charges including offenses against state security, weapons offenses, active membership in a terrorist organization, training for purposes of terror and preparation to commit an act of terrorism.

The announcement of the thwarted bus bombing comes on the heels of the deadly bombing attacks in Jerusalem that killed 16-year-old Aryeh Shechopek, who was on his way to yeshiva. A 40-year-old man who was sitting next to Shechopek remains in critical condition with severe head injuries.

The bombings, which rocked the capital, were placed in two bus stops – one at the entrance to the city and the other in the northern neighborhood of Ramot.

The police believe that the two attacks were coordinated as they took place 30 minutes apart and the explosive devices were of high quality.

Despite security footage and additional intelligence, security services have still not identified the perpetrators behind the attacks.