Shin Bet foils Hamas bomb attack planned for Jerusalem mall

Attacks were to take place at Mamilla mall during High Holidays; security forces uncover explosives lab at suspect's home.

Mamilla Mall (photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)
Mamilla Mall
(photo credit: SHMUEL BAR-AM)
Security forces led by the Shin Bet announced on Sunday that they had foiled a bomb attack plotted by Hamas in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, timed for the High Holy Days.
At the same time, the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment with the District Court against two individuals involved in the plot: Ahmad Rishak, 23, from Shuafat, and Ismail Abu Mfalfal, 27, from Abu Dis.
Both were charged with conspiracy to aid an enemy during war and attempted manufacturing of a weapon.
They and other alleged Hamas members from Ramallah and Jerusalem were in advanced planning stages in the terror plot and were led by Hamdi Romana, 22, of Ramallah, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said. The intended target was the Mamilla open mall in downtown Jerusalem during one of the upcoming High Holy Days and festivals.
At press time, the IDF Spokesman had not provided any information about the timing of Romana’s indictment, but in similar cases, Ramallah residents are usually indicted separately in the Judea and Samaria IDF courts. Indicting those residents sometimes takes longer than it does for their Israeli co-conspirators.
In the investigation process, which included 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 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 and the indictment indicated.
Rishak was recruited first, and on orders from Romana, Rishak eventually engaged Mfalfal, the indictment said.
It alleged that Mfalfal assisted with several aspects of the plot, including the providing of approximately 40 iron balls for the device in order to increase the number of potential casualties.
Rishak and Mfalfal, who were employed as maintenance workers at Mamilla, were planning to smuggle the bomb into the shopping center and to hide it in a closet.
Following multiple meetings in July, 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 terror 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 terror 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 Shin Bet observed.
The West Bank Hamas wing launched two recent terror attacks – the detonation near the Jerusalem Convention Center in 2011 and the Tel Aviv bus bombing of 2012 – similarly using Israeli ID card holders to plant the explosives.