Shin Bet catches large Hamas terrorist network in West Bank

Hamas terrorists were offered $1 million to conduct a kidnapping attack.

 IDF soldiers arresting Hamas operatives in the West Bank (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF soldiers arresting Hamas operatives in the West Bank
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Just a day after a Hamas operative killed an Israeli and injured four others in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed on Monday that it had thwarted a massive Hamas terrorist network planning attacks in Israel and the West Bank.

The network, led by senior Hamas officials living abroad, operated throughout the West Bank and aimed to carry out attacks including suicide bombings in both the West Bank and Israel proper.

IDF operation to arrest Hamas terror network, November 22, 2021. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

On Sunday morning, 26-year-old Eli Kay was killed and four others were injured in a shooting attack in Jerusalem’s Old City by a Hamas member.

Some 50 cell members were arrested in the joint Shin Bet, IDF and Israel Police operation. According to a statement released by the Shin Bet, the cell members arrested were involved in establishing the cell and raising funds to buy weapons. During the arrest operation, weapons and enough explosive materials to make three or four suicide belts were seized.

The detonating of weapons belonging to the Hamas terror cell group thwarted by the IDF, November 22, 2021. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

An official in the Shin Bet said this was “an extensive and significant thwarting of a dangerous terrorist infrastructure that had planned a series of severe terrorist attacks.”

The cell members were drafted from around the West Bank, including Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin. One of the main individuals involved in the formation of the network was Hijazi Qawasmi, 37, a known Hamas operative from Hebron. Qawasmi had been arrested multiple times due to his work for Hamas and planning for terrorist attacks.

IDFs Duvdevan brigade in their operation to arrest members of a Hamas terror cell, November 22, 2021. (Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The network was founded and led by Deputy Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Saleh al-Arouri who lives in Turkey. Arouri is one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing the Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades and is responsible for several deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

Arouri worked with additional Hamas members abroad, including Zakaria Najib, originally from east Jerusalem, who was one of the kidnappers of IDF soldier Nachson Waxman and was released in the Shilat Deal. Najib was involved in the planning of attempted assassinations against Israelis in 2019.

Qawasmi met with the Hamas officials abroad in order to form the terrorist network and received orders to conduct attacks. Arouri offered Qawasmi $1 million if he succeeded in conducting a kidnapping attack against Israelis.

Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip and abroad were “constantly funneling funding towards various terror activities” in the West Bank, the Shin Bet said, adding that Musa Dudin, a senior Hamas member was “one of the noteworthy people involved” in sending large sums of money to the terrorist group in the West Bank.

The Shin Bet said that Qawasmi also recruited 40-year-old Hamzah Zahran from the village of Bidu near Ramallah. Zahran, who has also been arrested multiple times for Hamas activities, also recruited several other cell members including family members.

Shin Bet thwarts Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank (credit: SHIN BET)Shin Bet thwarts Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank (credit: SHIN BET)

Two of the main bomb-makers were identified by the Shin Bet as Muhammad Abu al-Hassan, from the village of Burqin near Jenin, and Ghani Hadour, from Bayt Sira near Ramallah.

“The purpose of intensified terrorist activity planned by Hamas operatives abroad and in Gaza vis-à-vis operatives in the West Bank is to destabilize the area, while imposing a heavy price on local residents,” the Shin Bet said.

IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021.  (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
 IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021.  (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The effort to dismantle the cell has been going on for several months and security forces conducted several raids including in September when security forces carried out a wave of arrests in five different locations in the West Bank, arresting a total of 14 Hamas operatives involved in the cell.

On September 13, a total of 170 troops from the IDF’s elite Duvdevan unit led by Lt.-Col. E carried out a raid in the village of Bidu and arrested eight Hamas operatives.

 IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021.  (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

During another raid, on September 26, troops from the Duvdevan unit along with the Shin Bet carried out another raid near a gas station in the heart of the city of Jenin. Later that night, troops carried out three simultaneous raids in Ramallah, Dan and Burqin.

Two IDF soldiers from the Duvdevan unit were injured during the raid by friendly fire during an arrest operation against members of the Hamas terrorist network in the town of Burqin.

Five Palestinians including one of Hamzah Zahran’s brothers, Ahmad Zahran, was killed in a firefight with Israeli troops during a raid against the cell in Bidu along with two other Hamas members Mahmoud Hameedan and Zakria Badwan.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, in a conversation with officers in the military’s commando units who took part in the raids said, “You have carried out your mission well, you have thwarted a broad terrorist network, and thanks to you the people of Israel have more peace and security.”

Kohavi added, “The last few years have been safe years and one of the reasons for that is you, the soldiers – you do not know how many families you have prevented much sorrow from. I trust you in training, routine and operational activities.”

While defense officials believe that Hamas aims to keep the Gaza Strip relatively calm, the terrorist group has been trying to plan and carry out deadly attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

The Shin Bet waited a week and a half to publicize the arrests, because some of the senior Hamas members had ties to Turkey. There were concerns that the news could anger Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and would be an obstacle to negotiations to release the Israeli couple that had been arrested for photographing his home, KAN reported.

 IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021.  (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF thwarting a a massive Hamas terrorist network in the West Bank, November 22, 2021. (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

A senior diplomatic source said there were a number of reasons for the timing, and the negotiations with Turkey were one of the considerations but were not the deciding factor.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said that the entire international community has a responsibility to act against Hamas.

“The nations of the world must act as Great Britain did and outlaw Hamas,” Lapid stated. “Hamas’s offices in Istanbul must close. We need to prevent these criminal acts of terror against Israeli civilians.”

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.