Hezbollah terror cells, set up via Facebook in West Bank and Israel, busted by Shin Bet
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Hezbollah terror cells, set up via Facebook in West Bank and Israel, busted by Shin Bet

Nine Palestinians held for allegedly planning suicide bombings, ambushes, under orders from Shiite terror group's handlers in Lebanon and Gaza

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

A Facebook profile used by Hezbollah to recruit new members from the West Bank and Israel, distributed on August 16, 2016. (Shin Bet)
A Facebook profile used by Hezbollah to recruit new members from the West Bank and Israel, distributed on August 16, 2016. (Shin Bet)

Israel’s security services broke up two terror cells, which had been created by the Hezbollah terrorist organization, arresting nine suspected members over the past few months, officials revealed Tuesday.

Hezbollah operatives from the group’s Unit 133 — its foreign operations unit — working out of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip recruited members in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and within Israel through social media sites, notably Facebook, the Shin Bet security service said.

The terror cells had planned to carry out suicide bombings and ambush IDF patrols in the West Bank. They received funding from Hezbollah, and some members had begun preparing explosive devices for use in attacks, the Shin Bet says.

“The Hezbollah organization has recently made it a priority to try to spark terror acts, doing so from far away, while attempting to not clearly expressing its involvement,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

The terror operatives were arrested earlier this summer, but information about the case was kept under a court-issued gag order. The Shin Bet has credited their operation with thwarting a number of terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel.

Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the tenth anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)
Women wave a Lebanese national flag and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah flags in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil on August 13, 2016, during a commemoration marking the tenth anniversary of the end of the war between Hezbollah and Israel. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMOUD ZAYYAT)

According to Israel’s security forces, the ringleader of the West Bank terror cell was Mustafa Kamal Hindi, 18, a resident of Qalqilya.

During his interrogation, Hindi told interrogators that he’d been recruited through a Facebook page, “Palestine the Free,” where Hezbollah posted “anti-Israel and pro-jihad content,” the Shin Bet said.

Through the page, Hindi was in contact with a Hezbollah operative known only as “Bilal.” The two began speaking through the social media site, but later moved to encrypted forms of communications to avoid detection, the Shin Bet said.

Following instructions from “Bilal,” Hindi recruited additional members for the terror cell in order to carry out a shooting attack against an IDF patrol in Qalqilya, the security service said.

In June 2016, before they could carry out the alleged attack, Israeli security forces arrested Hindi and the other members of the terror cell: Mehmed Majd Mehmed Amin Daoud, Taher Mehmed Mahmoud Nofal, Islam Iyad Zahir Abu-Sha’ib and Bara’a Iyad Mehmed Sa’id Hemad.

All residents of Qalqilya, the alleged terrorists were between the ages of 18 and 22.

Daoud, who also maintained connections with the Hamas terrorist group, is accused of assisting Hindi in recruiting the other members, the Shin Bet said.

Nofal allegedly purchased the material necessary to create explosive devices for the group, which Hemad helped him to manufacture. Meanwhile, Sha’ib collected intelligence about the IDF patrols in the area in order to plan the attack, the agency said.

In addition to the explosive devices, the group had also acquired rifles and begun training to use both, according to the Shin Bet.

Soon after the arrest two months ago, the cell was indicted by a West Bank military court with a number of charges, including planning a terror attack.

One Hezbollah operative from the Gaza Strip is believed to have recruited three Palestinian men from the West Bank, ranging in age from 22 to 49, to carry out shooting and suicide bombing attacks, the Shin Bet said.

‘Najm also agreed to recruit others to join Hezbollah and eventually carry out a suicide bombing on an Israeli bus “in exchange for $900″‘

Mehmed Fa’iz Abu-Jadian, a resident of the Gaza Strip and member of Hezbollah’s Unit 133, reached out to Usama Nu’af Sid Najm, a 36-year-old resident of Qabalan, south of Nablus, through Facebook.

After making initial contact through the social media, Abu-Jadian instructed Najm to use a computer encryption program in order to contact Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon, according to the investigation.

Najm also agreed to recruit others to join Hezbollah and eventually carry out a suicide bombing on an Israeli bus “in exchange for $900,” the Shin Bet said.

Najm, along with a resident of the Gaza Strip, Louie Taisir Ali Salame, also spoke with Yousef Mehmed Yousef Hajajrah, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) based in Syria, in order to form a branch of the PFLP in the northern West Bank, the Shin Bet said.

On March 17, 2016, Najm was arrested and indicted a short time later for “belonging to a terrorist organization, contacting the enemy and importing the enemy’s funds into the region,” the Shin Bet said.

Jenin refugee camp resident Ma’aman Issam Abd al-Rahman Nashrati, 22, who had previously been arrested for taking part in riots and was suspected of throwing pipe bombs at Israeli forces, was also recruited to join the Hezbollah terrorist organization through Facebook, the security service said.

Abu-Jadian instructed Nashrati to purchase an M-16 assault rifle in order to carry out a shooting attack on IDF troops in the Jenin area, according to investigators.

The Gaza-based Hezbollah operative spoke to Nashrati by telephone, as well as through Facebook and secret email accounts. In exchange for recruiting additional operatives and carrying out the shooting attack, Nashrati was “promised that afterwards he would be paid NIS 30,000 ($8,000),” the Shin Bet said.

Nashrati was arrested on May 31, 2016, and was later indicted in a military court.

From Gaza, Abu-Jadian also recruited 49-year-old Mustafa Ali Mahmoud Basharat, a resident of Tamun in the northern West Bank and former member of the PFLP.

Similar to the other men, Basharat was first contacted through social media, before moving on to emails, phone calls and finally an encrypted communication program, the Shin Bet said.

In his conversations with Abu-Jadian and other members of Hezbollah, Basharat “expressed his willingness to assist Hezbollah in any way, from carrying out terror attacks to collecting intelligence on targets for attacks. Basharat told his handlers that he had 30 years of experience in security activity. He expressed willingness to recruit others for deployment by Hezbollah and even noted that he was interested in learning how to make explosives devices,” the security service said.

‘The Security Council must finally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization’

Israeli forces arrested Basharat on June 2, 2016, charging him with belonging to an illegal organization and holding a position in an illegal organization.

Within Israel, the Shin Bet also detected multiple attempts by Hezbollah to recruit operatives among the country’s Arab population through a Facebook profile that posted anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiments.

In response to these recent attempts by Hezbollah to recruit residents of the West Bank and Israel, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called on the international organization to formally recognize Hezbollah as a terror group.

“The international community must condemn Hezbollah’s attempts to harm innocent Israeli civilians, and the Security Council must finally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” Danon said in a statement.

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