A terror cell based in Tulkarem in the West Bank and recruited and funded by Lebanon-based Hezbollah planned to carry out a shooting attack and suicide bombings against Israelis, but was stopped by a joint operation of the Shin Bet security service and the army, officials announced on Wednesday.
Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, recruited the cell via social media, the Shin Bet said.
Hezbollah is considered Israel’s most menacing threat, according to IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, though in recent years the majority of its efforts have come from Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria. The cell thwarted in Tulkarem was “very irregular,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
To assist the cell, Hezbollah gave it $5,000 so it could acquire weaponry and equipment for an attack. Two members of the cell acquired guns and were preparing to shoot IDF troops in the area, but were captured before the attack could be carried out.
In addition to the planned shooting attack, the terror cell also received orders about carrying out suicide bombings and collecting intelligence on IDF activities and positions.
The five-man cell was led by Mahmoud Zaghloul, 32, from Zita outside of Tulkarem, who was recruited directly by Jawad Nasrallah. It was an initiative of Hezbollah’s Unit 133, which is charged with setting up terror cells in Israel.
The unit’s actions have by and large “been unsuccessful,” the Shin Ben said in a statement.
“The Hezbollah organization is trying to enlist and activate terror cells from afar secretly through the Internet,” the statement said.
A Hezbollah operative named Fadi told Zaghloul to set up an email address through which he would “receive orders to recruit additional members for the cell and collect preliminary intelligence for carrying out terror attacks,” the Shin Bet said.
“The Hezbollah organization is trying to ride the terror wave that has taken over Israel in recent months and is acting feverishly to inflame passions on the ground,” it said.
The cell was an attempt to incite the population and “seduce the youth into carrying out attacks as orders and with monetary funding,” the security service said.
In addition to Zaghloul, the four other members of the cell were also arrested by the IDF and Shin Bet.
Zita resident Rabah Labadi, 28, who had been imprisoned in an Israeli jail in 2002-2007 and 2008-2011, was also arrested.
The Shin Bet and IDF also arrested Muhammad Zaghloul, presumably Mahmoud Zaghloul’s relative; Muhammad Matzarwa and Ahmed Abu el-Az, all 19 years old and from the Tulkarem area.
They were charged in a military court in the West Bank with belonging to an illegal organization, contact with an enemy, bringing in funds from an enemy, conspiracy to commit a lethal crime, sale of war materials, conspiracy to commit a shooting and interfering with legal proceedings.