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Official: Iran seeks to attack Israelis with 'sleeper cells'

2 Arab Israelis tried to smuggle guns, plan kidnapping for Hezbollah — Shin Bet

Officials say men from Yarka and Jadeidi-Makr met terror group operatives in Turkey, were asked to also identify targets for missile attacks

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Sultan Atallah, 55, and Rami Shammi, 33, who were arrested for working with Hezbollah in February 2022. (Shin Bet)
Sultan Atallah, 55, and Rami Shammi, 33, who were arrested for working with Hezbollah in February 2022. (Shin Bet)

Two Israeli residents of the Galilee were arrested last month for operating on behalf of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah or under orders from Iran, the Shin Bet security agency announced on Sunday.

The two men, Sultan Atallah, 55, from Yarka, and Rami Shammi, 33, from Jadeidi-Makr, have both been convicted in the past of drug smuggling from Lebanon, the Shin Bet said.

The two men were in contact with a Lebanese drug smuggler in Turkey who is connected to Hezbollah and has previously been jailed in Israel, the agency said.

In November, the pair met with the Hezbollah operative and were allegedly asked to smuggle weapons into Israel and stash them for other Hezbollah operatives in Israel to find.

They were also asked to lay the groundwork for carrying out terrorist attacks in Israel, identify sensitive sites for Hezbollah to aim missiles at, and carry out a kidnapping in Israel.

An MP5 submachine gun was seized from the suspects during the investigation.

This infographic published by the Israel Defense Forces on March 20, 2022, shows details on Hezbollah operatives and Israeli citizens behind alleged smuggling attempts. (Israel Defense Forces)

“This affair illustrates the efforts of Iranian and other terror elements to exploit the Arab and Druze citizens of Israel,” a senior Shin Bet official said. “Citizens who receive inquiries from terror elements are called upon to report this to authorities and to avoid a situation in which they find themselves involved in serious security activities.”

Atallah and Shami were to be indicted later Sunday, following a joint investigation of the Shin Bet, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, officials said.

“During the past year, the Shiite axis led by the Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies across the Middle East has been actively promoting attacks and weapons smuggling into Israel,” the IDF said in a statement.

The military said it had established a task force with police and other authorities to handle smuggling attempts, amid a rise in cases in recent months.

Dozens of guns seized during a smuggling operation from Lebanon, on July 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli officials have pointed toward a senior Hezbollah official by the name of Hajj Khalil Harb as the one responsible for coordinating smuggling attempts into northern Israel. Harb, allegedly a senior adviser to Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah, is accused of personally directing the Hezbollah operative who met with the two suspects in November.

As Lebanon faces a major financial crisis, Hezbollah is believed to prefer arming others for an attack within Israel rather than direct aggression on the border, officials have previously said.

A security official warned Sunday that Iran seeks revenge against Israel for various actions against it, by transferring weapons to Hezbollah “sleeper cells” that would attack senior Israeli officials, military officers, and politicians.

In July Israeli troops intercepted what was the largest attempt in recent years to smuggle weapons across the border from Lebanon, officials said.

Police officials believed those arms were heading to criminal organizations in the Arab community, where they would also be available for terror attacks in the event of another surge in violence between Jews and Arabs.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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