A Hamas terrorist cell in east Jerusalem that planned to attack Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and other Israeli targets was thwarted by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). The five cell members were indicted in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday, more than a month after their arrest.
The cell was led by Rashid Rashek, a prominent Hamas operative in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Shin Bet said. Along with Hamas operative Mansour Tzafadi, from Abu Tor in southeastern Jerusalem, he planned a shooting attack or suicide bombing in the capital, it said.
According to the Shin Bet’s investigation, Rashek recruited a number of operatives in Jerusalem who would riot in the city’s eastern neighborhoods as well as on the Temple Mount during Ramadan “to destabilize the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.” The operatives brought fireworks, Hamas flags and other paraphernalia to use during the riots.
The Temple Mount - Hamas's redline
The investigation found that Rashek recruited a number of operatives in Jerusalem who would riot in the city’s eastern neighborhoods as well as on the Temple Mount during the month of Ramadan “in order to destabilize the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.” The operatives brought fireworks, Hamas flags and other paraphernalia to use during the riots.
Among other attacks, the cell planned to shoot public figures, including Ben-Gvir. They also planned to build improvised explosive devices, launch bombing attacks and kidnap soldiers.
The suspects purchased a drone that they planned to arm and use to attack the light rail in Jerusalem. The drone, along with a camera to photograph hostages, was seized by security forces along with funds and other equipment.
The cell members planned to flee to Hebron or Jenin after their attacks.
In a joint statement, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police said they would “continue to act resolutely to bring to justice those involved in all terrorist activities, in particular in the city of Jerusalem.”
Ben-Gvir thanked the security forces for thwarting the plot against him and blamed left-wing activists, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for the plot against him.
“I expect them to continue to investigate the hundreds of calls of incitement against me and to prosecute those who instigate and intimidate,” he said.
I will not shy away from threats and assassination attempts.Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben Gvir
“The leftists’ incitement and the statements of Bennett and Lapid toward me did their part, and it turns out that a squad of terrorists planned to try to harm me and my family,” Ben-Gvir tweeted.
Last month, Ben-Gvir blasted the Shin Bet and its director, Ronen Bar, for a number of failures that have led to a string of attacks against Israelis.
The writing was on the wall.Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben Gvir
“While the Temple Mount is burning and terror attacks are increasing, the Shin Bet needs to deal with the security of the nation and not briefings against me. Words can kill!” he wrote on Twitter.
Ben-Gvir’s comments follow reports that the Shin Bet had urged Bennett to ban him from marching through Damascus Gate and into the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City when tensions were high between Israel and the Palestinians.