Hamas cell caught planning to assassinate Liberman

Group from village near Bethlehem sought RPG to shoot at foreign minister’s convoy during summer war with Gaza, Shin Bet says

Joshua Davidovich is The Times of Israel's Deputy Editor

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in May. (photo credit: Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in May. (photo credit: Flash90)

Israeli forces foiled a Palestinian plan to assassinate Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman during the summer war with Gaza, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday night.

A group of Hamas members from near Bethlehem in the West Bank planned to purchase a rocket-propelled grenade, which would be shot at Liberman, who lives in an Israeli settlement in the area, the Shin Bet said.

The IDF, police and Shin Bet were involved in stymieing the plan, according to an official statement.

The head of the Hamas cell was identified as Ibrahim Salim Mahmoud Zir, 37, a former convict who served time in Israeli prison for terror-related activities. Zir is a resident of the village of Harmala, which sits several kilometers from the settlement of Nokdim, where Liberman lives.

Zir, his brother Ziad Salim Mahmoud Zir, 35,  and a third man identified by Hebrew media as Adnan Amin Mahmoud Zabih, 31, and by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency as Anas Beeq, planned to shoot the RPG at Liberman’s convoy, “in order to send a message to Israel and end the war in Gaza,” according to the Shin Bet statement.

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The group gathered intelligence on Liberman’s convoy to carry out the attack, according to the Shin Bet, and turned to Hamas officials in the area for help in acquiring the RPG.

Indictments were recently served against those involved in the plan, according to the statement.

Israeli officials said they also uncovered during the interrogations Hamas plans to fire weapons and carry out hit-and-run attacks against settlers and Israeli troops in the area.

Meanwhile, police said earlier on Thursday that a November 5 hit-and-run attack in the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank, in which three soldiers were injured, was a terror attack carried out by a Hamas member, ruling out the possibility that it had been an accident.

The terrorist behind the attack was named as Hamam Mesalmeh, a 23-year-old Hamas operative from Beit Awwa, southwest of Hebron in the West Bank.

“During interrogation by the Shin Bet (security service), he confessed to running down the soldiers as part of a planned attack,” a police statement said.

In a separate incident on November 10 in the area, a Palestinian affiliated with Islamic Jihad stabbed 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus from Tekoa to death at a bus stop near the settlement of Alon Shvut.

On June 12, Hamas members from Hebron abducted and killed Israeli teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gil-ad Shaar, in a move that sparked a large IDF crackdown on Hamas and widespread arrests as Israeli forces searched for the missing teenagers in the area before their bodies were uncovered on June 30. The violence shifted to the Gaza Strip on July 8, as Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to combat Hamas rocket fire targeting Israeli cities.

The 50-day conflict, during which Gaza terror groups fired some 4,500 rockets and other projectiles at Israel, and staged several cross-border attacks through a network of tunnels, claimed the lives of over 2,000 Palestinians, at least half of them said by Israel to be combatants, 72 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers, and one Thai national working in Israel.

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