The Shin Bet security service, in a joint operation with the Israel Prison Service, thwarted efforts by Palestinian prisoners held in Israel to coordinate the kidnapping of Israelis in the West Bank last month, the domestic security agency announced on Wednesday.
In December, three prisoners planned to carry out a kidnapping with the assistance of the Holy Warriors Brigade, a Hamas affiliate based in the Gaza Strip. The attacks were thwarted in the preliminary planning stages, the Shin Bet said in a press release.
The alleged point person behind the plan was Mahmoud Bel, 24, a former Gaza resident who has been incarcerated since 2008 in the Eshel Prison.
Bel allegedly enlisted the help of Ali Harub, a 21-year-old from a village near Hebron; and Rajab Salah Al-din, 53, from Hizme. Bel had reportedly contacted Amar Qassem, who worked directly under the head of the Holy Warriors Brigade.
The three confessed over the course of an interrogation and have since been indicted in the Beersheba District Court on charges of membership and activity in an illegal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and contact with a foreign agent.
“The latest counter-terrorism [efforts] and investigations have revealed, once again, the efforts of the Holy Warriors Brigade organization to extend the area of its activity to Judea and Samaria,” the statement from the Shin Bet read.
“This, in order to serve its master — Hamas, which coordinates and directs its every activity — by initiating military action in an area far from the Strip, so that Hamas can [attack Israeli targets and at the same time] keep up the appearance of maintaining the ceasefire agreement that led to the end of Operation Pillar of Defense” in November 2012.
The Holy Warriors Brigade is a group that splintered from the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, and is headed by one Assad Abu Sharia.
The group maintains close ties with Hamas, and has been associated with a number of attacks on Israel, including firing rockets from Gaza and firing at the IDF on the Gaza-Israel border. According to the Shin Bet, Hamas and the Holy Warriors Brigade have collaborated in training, networking, financing terror, obtaining weapons for attacks, and smuggling weapons.
“It can be said that, in practice, the Holy Warriors Brigades is the subsidiary of Hamas in all respects,” the report said.