Shin Bet nabs Hamas terror cell in east Jerusalem

5 charged with being in contact with Hamas in Gaza, planning attacks against Israelis; 1 responsible for pipe bomb that injured J'lem worker.

Hamas terror cell (photo credit: Courtesy)
Hamas terror cell
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Jerusalem Police have captured a Hamas terrorist cell that was operating in east Jerusalem and planning attacks against Israeli targets, it was announced on Thursday.
One of the cell members was behind a bomb that severed the hand of a Jerusalem municipal worker on March 6, according to the details released.
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The cell consisted of five residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Bahir who were arrested in February.
The five men were indicted in Jerusalem District Court on Thursday on counts of membership in a terrorist organization, contact with a foreign agent, conspiring to aid the enemy in a time of war, property transaction for the purpose of terrorism, and weapons manufacturing, among others charges.
Jerusalem Police refused to comment on whether the five men could be connected to the terrorist attack opposite the International Convention Center two weeks ago, when a package blew up outside a bus stop, killing a 57-year-old Scottish woman named Mary Jane Gardener, and wounding 39 people. There is still a media blackout on the investigation into the attack.
The Sur Bahir cell began planning its attacks on the sidelines of Operation Cast Lead in 2009. Three of its members – Munir Atun, Ahmed Nimar and Ahmed Dawit – met in a restaurant in Sur Bahir and discussed their frustration with the IDF offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and their readiness to engage in anti-Israel terrorism.
The Shin Bet said that the three men were known Hamas operatives and had familial links to the movement. Nimar, 25, was in an Israeli prison in 2006-2007 and his brother began serving a sentence in 2010 for his involvement in Hamas activity and work he did on behalf of the Hamas command in Syria.
The three assembled an improvised bomb with a gas canister and hid it. Later, Monir and Dawit drove to Bethlehem where they bought a pistol for $5,000.
During 2009 and 2010 the three men met often in a coffee shop in Sur Bahir owned by Dawit and discussed plans to attack a Jerusalem mall with a car bomb.
Early in 2010, Jihad Atun, another Hamas operative from Sur Bahir, contacted a Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip and asked to receive money that was intended for Hamas prisoners. About $15,000 was sent to Atun from Jordan with the help of several money changers.
Atun’s brother is serving a prison sentence for his involvement in the murder of three Israelis, including Border Police Sgt.-Maj. Nissim Toledano, 29, in December 1992. Following the murder, 415 Palestinian terrorism suspects, mostly from Hamas, were deported to Lebanon. Another brother was a Hamas legislator elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006.
The Gaza-based Hamas operative later instructed Atun to buy a new phone and informed him that contact would be made via encrypted e-mails. He later sent Atun a code he could use to decipher the messages.
In February, the Gaza-based operative sent Atun a message and asked him to carry out an attack like the shooting attack at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2008, in which eight students were killed. The operative transferred 10,000 Jordanian dinars to Atun and promised to transfer 20,000 more in the near future. The cell planned to buy an M-16 assault rifle and two pistols.
At this stage, Atun was arrested by the Shin Bet.
This led the Shin Bet to Mahmoud Diwat, brother of Ahmed Diwat, the owner of the coffee shop. Mahmoud confessed to planting the bomb in bush on Rehov Derech Hebron in Jerusalem that was found by a Jerusalem Municipality worker who lost part of his hand when it exploded.
Mahmoud said he had planned to plant the bomb at a hitchhiker post in the capital’s southern Gilo neighborhood used by residents of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.