Two residents of the northern town Ein Mahil were indicted Sunday for conspiracy to commit acts of terror and contact with foreign terror operatives, the Israel Police and Shin Bet announced at the end of a joint investigation.
On January 1, Rami Habibullah, 43, a teacher, was arrested on suspicion of making contact with Hamas operatives abroad and providing them with a photo and the exact location of a factory belonging to the Elbit Systems defense firm close to his home with the hope that they would fire rockets at it, the police and Shin Bet said in their statement.
Habibullah met Turkey-based Hamas members Abd al-Jaber Shalabi, who runs a Hamas-associated firm, and Ibrahim Elnaji, who works at the firm, while traveling with a humanitarian delegation to Turkey in 2022, according to the indictment.
In 2023, the two connected Habibulla to a third, Syria-based operative, Idris Abiat, the indictment read, which noted that he was made aware of their membership in the terror group and nevertheless maintained frequent contact with them over the years.
Habibullah was inspired to commit an act of terror by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and made the final decision as a response to the explosion at the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, which was initially blamed on Israel but very shortly after revealed to have been caused by a failed rocket launch by a terror group.
After Elnaji informed him in October that neither Hamas in Lebanon or Gaza could strike the Elbit factory, Habibullah said he was willing to carry out his own attack on the plant. He then worked with the foreign terror operatives to recruit more Arabs inside Israel to his cause.
As part of the investigation, 35-year-old Khaled Saleh was also arrested and found to have agreed to carry out terror activities with Habibullah and to provide the necessary weapons to do so.
An additional unnamed suspect was put into administrative detention. The controversial practice allows individuals to be held without charge for six months at a time, renewable indefinitely while allowing military prosecutors to prevent suspects from seeing the evidence against them.
In addition to planning an attack, the indictment said Habibullah transferred funds to the foreign operatives on several occasions. On April 11, 2023, he transferred NIS 32,000 ($8,600) to Shalabi, and 800 Jordanian dinars ($1,100) to Abiat on March 30, 2023, and an additional NIS 4,200 ($1,100) on an unknown date. Additionally, Habibullah met with Abiat in Amman on January 1, 2024, and gave him $200.
Footage released as part of the joint statement appeared to show security forces raiding a home of one of the suspects.
Habibullah’s charges included contacting a foreign agent, forbidden procurement for the purposes of terror, and conspiracy to commit an act of terror.
Saleh was accused of conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.
“This is a serious activity by Israeli citizens who hatched a malicious plan with Hamas operatives while the State of Israel is in the middle of fighting against that terrorist organization,” the two security agencies said, adding that the plans were thwarted in their initial stages before any harm could be done to Israel’s security.
Habibullah’s attorney Ramzi Katilat claimed in a statement that measures were taken during the investigation that “drastically reduce my client’s rights,” and said they will respond to the allegations in court.
The indictments came as security tensions have ramped up in Israel, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem in the shadow of the ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza, sparked by the terror group’s October 7 massacres in southern Israel.
Announcing the war, Hamas’s military commander Mohammad Deif called on Arabs in Jerusalem and inside Israel in the Negev, the Galilee, and northern Israel to “set the earth on fire under the feet of the occupiers.”
On two occasions last month, police arrested several East Jerusalem residents for planning bombings in the capital in support of the Islamic State terror group.