117 Hamas activists arrested

3 cells planned attacks and abductions, including murder of Sasson Nuriel.

idf soldiers w guns 88 (photo credit: )
idf soldiers w guns 88
(photo credit: )
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) revealed on Monday that 117 Hamas activists belonging to three separate terror infrastructures in the Hebron area were arrested by security forces. The activists were involved in many attacks, including the abduction and murder of Sasson Nuriel, the suicide bomb attack in the Beersheba bus station in August, and a planned bombing of an air force helicopter at a training base in the Judean desert. A senior Shin Bet official noted that the infrastructures continued to operate intensively despite the tahdiya called in February of this year. They were responsible for the deaths of six Israelis and the wounding of scores. By arresting the operatives, security forces thwarted plans to abduct Israeli hikers in the Judean desert and to abduct and murder soldiers, using them as trading cards to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners. The official noted that for the first time, Hamas in Gaza recruited and trained a female bomb mechanic. She had already been sent to the West Bank to begin training activists before she was arrested. The mechanic, 22-year-old Samir Sabih of Jabalya, received permission to travel from Gaza to Tulkarm by claiming she was going to meet a future fiance. It was there that she was arrested by Israeli security forces. A key commander in one of the arrested infrastructures, Yasser Saleh, was recruited by Gazan Hamas activists at the beginning of 2003, when he was studying in Egypt. Saleh is the son of the Palestinian police commander in Ramallah, an advisor to PA Interior Minister Nasser Yousef. Saleh helped prepare for terror attacks in Sinai when he was sent there to locate popular resort areas frequented by Israelis. At the beginning of 2004, he returned to Ramallah in accordance with the orders of Hamas in Gaza began planning attacks. The infrastructure Saleh commanded plotted to abduct soldiers, including an IDF officer who they intended to nab in the guise of a drug deal. Members of the same cell, Abdullah Arour and Ali Kadi, were responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Sasson Nuriel. They enticed Nuriel to go with them to A-Ram, purportedly in order to purchase a coffee machine. En route, and at gunpoint, they abducted Sasson to Ramallah and killed him in a safe house. The two had originally planned to use his abduction to secure the release of prisoners. Fearing they would be caught, they took him to Beitunia, a garbage dump, where they stabbed him to death and buried his body. At first, the two did not notify Muhammad Tira, Hamas commander in Gaza, of Sasson’s murder. The cell’s members also intended to abduct Israeli civilians at a gas station in Neve Ya’akov and Israeli motorists traveling on the Ramallah-Jerusalem road. The cell planned to launch a suicide bomb attack at an IDF base near A-Ram, as well. All members of the cell were arrested, except for Tira, who remained in Gaza. Members of another infrastructure operated north of Hebron and were believed to be one of the most deeply rooted infrastructures in the area. According to officials, its members underwent military training. Mussa Halaika, 37, commanded the infrastructure, which was involved in numerous shooting attacks dating as far back as 2003. In recent months, an explosion occurred in Halaika’s house - the result of a work accident when a bomb he prepared exploded prematurely. It was his cell that planned to bomb an air force helicopter, shoot at IDF jeeps, and abduct and murder soldiers. The cell members hoped to abduct Israeli hikers, too. In total, security forces succeeded in arresting 59 members of that infrastructure. The third infrastructure operated in Dahriya and has been involved in attacks since 2002. It was responsible for the deaths of four Israelis. The cell’s commander, Houssam Kissiyah, 27, was incarcerated in Israel from 1999 2000 for participating in Hamas activities. In February 2002, cell members Khaled Tal and Muhammad Batat shot and killed two female soldiers at the IDF’s southern command headquarters in Beersheba. In May and June 2003, they were involved in shooting attacks, and in February 2004, shot and murdered an Israeli couple at point-blank range as they traveled near the Sansana junction inside the green line north of Beersheba. In August this year, cell members were responsible for the bomb attack at the Beersheba bus station in which two Israeli security guards were critically wounded. Security forces arrested 35 members of the infrastructure. A senior official said that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had yet to act against terror groups who continued launching attacks against Israel. The official noted that since the disengagement from Gaza, Hamas had intensified its efforts to transfer knowledge and upgrade its activities in the West Bank. The official also drew a clear link between the Hamas military wing and the dawa charity organization, which continued funding operations and handing out instructions to cells operating in the West Bank. The official said that the Hamas, while intensifying its operations in the West Bank, continued to maintain a low profile and kept its terror operations under wraps, for fear of losing popularity in the Palestinian street ahead of the January elections.