Israel busts Hamas cell planning highway shooting attack
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Israel busts Hamas cell planning highway shooting attack

Hebron terror group had purchased guns, were led by brother of man who oversaw abduction-murder of three teens last year, officials say

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

The four Hamas members arrested by the Shin Bet security agency in November for planning a shooting attack near the West Bank city of Hebron (Shin Bet)
The four Hamas members arrested by the Shin Bet security agency in November for planning a shooting attack near the West Bank city of Hebron (Shin Bet)

In a joint Shin Bet-IDF operation, a Hamas terror cell was broken in Hebron in November, officials announced Sunday.

The cell had purchased a variety of weapons, including an M-16 rifle, in order to carry out a terror attack on the Route 35 highway, which runs between Hebron and the coastal city of Ashkelon, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

“The thwarting of this terror cell, which was nearly prepared to carry out an attack, again demonstrates the never-ending attempts by Hamas operatives in Hebron to carry out severe terror acts,” the statement said.

The head of the alleged terror cell, Mehmad Ali Qawasmeh, is the brother of one of the terrorists responsible for the abduction-killing of three Israeli teenagers in the summer of 2014, the Shin Bet said.

Qawasmeh is a member of the extended Qawasmeh family, a strong Hamas force within the city of Hebron. Another member of the family, Maher Qawasmeh, was arrested in December by the Shin Bet for leading another terror cell, which planned to kidnap and murder Israelis in order to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners, the security service said last week.

Weapons held by a Hamas cell near Hebron. The members of the cell, arrested in November, had planned a shooting attack near Hebron (Shin Bet)
Weapons held by a Hamas cell near Hebron. The members of the cell, arrested in November, had planned a shooting attack near Hebron (Shin Bet)

The group had already scoped out the highway to find optimum vantage point to carry out the attack and had purchased pistols and at least one M-16 assault rifle. The guns were seized by Shin Bet and IDF forces during the bust of the cell.

Mehmed Ali Qawasmeh, 38, recruited the other members of the cell, all of whom were residents of Hebron, the Shin Bet said.

Though the Shin Bet would not reveal how many people were arrested from the cell, at least another three members were picked up.

Louai Faisal Hashlmon, 32, was another leader in the group, the Shin Bet said. He had previously been incarcerated as a Hamas operative. Amer Mehmed Ewiwie, 29, and Husam Fakhrie Hashelmon, 24, were also arrested for their activities in the alleged cell.

In addition, Qawasmeh recruited a number of people for logistical support, who were expected to provide a stolen vehicle with which ti carry out the proposed attack on the highway and also assist the operatives who actually carried out the attack to escape and hide, the Shin Bet said.

A military court indicted the men for conspiracy to commit voluntary manslaughter and for being members of Hamas, an illegal organization.

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