Shfaram men arrested for allegedly blocked road during Cast Lead to cause car crash, attack drivers.
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
Nine Beduin men in their 20s from the Galilee town of Shfaram are under arrest after initiating a plan to try to kill motorists and damage infrastructure "in an organized and coordinated manner" following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
In December, after the start of the operation, the suspects knocked over a light pole onto a Galilee highway, injuring a woman, threw rocks at passing cars, and burned tires on the road to disrupt traffic.
An Acre court on Sunday allowed details of the investigation to emerge following a lengthy joint undercover operation by Galilee Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
"They planned to carry out acts to identify with their Palestinian brethren in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead," Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Maor, Head of the Galilee Police's Central Unit, told The Jerusalem Post.
"They proceeded to carry out a string of attacks, blocking roads, systematically throwing rocks at cars on 10 occasions, and toppling a pole. They were hoping to cause accidents and casualties. They did in fact cause injuries and damage cars," Maor added.
The suspects had targeted Route 79 which links Shfaram to Nazareth.
Law enforcement were alerted to the suspects' activities in December after rocks were thrown on Route 79 and an electric pole was knocked onto the road at the entrance to a scenic lookout point in the area, lightly injuring a female motorist. She received treatment at Haifa's Rambam Hospital.
Maor added that the suspects confessed to the attacks and reenacted them for police. The suspects admitted to plotting the attacks in advance and gathering tires, rocks, and purchasing fuel ahead of time. They then lay in wait by the roadside.
"We are not describing this as a terror cell. This is a local group who decided to carry out their plans, but did not engage in terrorism in the sense we are familiar with it, such as shootings or kidnappings," Maor said.
Asked if a link existed between this group and another group of Israeli Arabs from the North arrested at the start of Pessah for plotting to kidnap IDF soldiers and carry out bomb attacks, Maor said, "there is no connection. They were not in touch with others. There was no contact with terrorist elements on the Internet."
In recent weeks the suspects had their custody extended repeatedly. Galilee Police will soon submit a prosecutor's statement to lay the groundwork for an indictment.
The suspects will be charged with deliberately endangering human lives on a traffic route, an offense which carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence. They will also be charged with arson and damaging property.
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