Israel busts Hamas cell planning suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa
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Israel busts Hamas cell planning suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa

Shin Bet says 20-member West Bank network, including several ex-prisoners, was gearing up for terror attacks; 4 suicide bombers were recruited

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Alleged members of a Hamas terror cell operating in the area of the West Bank city of Nablus, nabbed by the Shin Bet, December 22, 2016. (Shin Bet)
Alleged members of a Hamas terror cell operating in the area of the West Bank city of Nablus, nabbed by the Shin Bet, December 22, 2016. (Shin Bet)

Israeli security agents busted a 20-member Hamas cell that was plotting suicide bombings and shootings against Israeli citizens in major Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Haifa, the Shin Bet disclosed on Thursday.

The internal security agency didn’t specify when the sting took place, only saying it occurred in recent months, incorporated various IDF units, and that the Hamas cell was in a state of “high readiness to carry out deadly suicide attacks.”

The Shin Bet said it arrested over 20 Hamas operatives from across the West Bank, many of whom had previously spent time in Israeli prisons for terrorism charges. The cell was “hierarchical and organized,” the Shin Bet said, with various members involved in different aspects of planning the attacks.

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

An improvised bomb seized by the Shin Bet as part of a successful operation to smash a Hamas terror ring in the West Bank, announced on December 22, 2016 (Shin Bet)
An improvised bomb seized by the Shin Bet as part of a successful operation to smash a Hamas terror ring in the West Bank, announced on December 22, 2016 (Shin Bet)

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons.

The terror network was foiled before it could carry out attacks, the Shin Bet said in the statement.

“This investigation shows, once again, the great efforts made by the terrorist organization Hamas to establish infrastructure in the West Bank with the aim of carrying out attacks against Israel,” it said.

On December 8, the Shin Bet announced that Israeli security forces broke up a Hamas terror cell that was plotting to kidnap IDF soldiers in the Hebron area in October. Six members of the seven-person cell were arrested throughout the month of October, and a number of assault rifles and pistols were also found and confiscated, the Shin Bet security service said. The seventh member and alleged mastermind of the cell, Ibrahaim Abdallah Ghnimat, is accused of planning the kidnapping operations from a prison cell, as he is currently serving a life sentence for his role in a slew of terror attacks in the 1990s, including the kidnapping and murder of an IDF soldier, Sharon Edri.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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