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IDF seals West Bank bookstore suspected of housing bomb workshop

Nablus shop believed used to make explosives by Hamas terror cell busted in December; army raids Jerusalem stabber’s Sebastia home

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

The Israel Defense Forces welded shut a bookstore in the northern West Bank on Sunday that was suspected of being used to manufacture explosives for a Hamas cell broken up late last year, the army said.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, the troops arrived in the Palestinian city of Nablus to carry out an “additional element” of its cell-busting operation in December 2016, closing a shop used by the group of terrorists.

According to the military, the 20-man cell used the bookshop to make explosives for planned terror attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa, as well as printing “inciting” material.

In December, the IDF and Shin Bet security service arrested the cell members, who were in a state of “high readiness to carry out deadly suicide attacks,” the Shin Bet said at the time.

Alleged members of a Hamas terror cell operating in the area of the West Bank city of Nablus, nabbed by the Shin Bet, December 22, 2016. (Shin Bet)
Alleged members of a Hamas terror cell operating in the area of the West Bank city of Nablus, nabbed by the Shin Bet, December 22, 2016. (Shin Bet)

The suspects told investigators that between May and August 2016 they set up a lab in Nablus and produced nearly 15 pounds of TATP explosives intended for suicide bombings in Jerusalem, Haifa and bus stations across the country.

They also obtained M-16 rifles for attacks on Israeli civilians, and enlisted four suicide bombers. The terror cell was supported by a broad network of supporters who assisted in acquiring and storing weapons, transferring funds and hiding wanted persons, the Shin Bet said.

One of the victims of a stabbing in Jerusalem's Old City on April 1, 2017, is seen moments after the attack as Border Police swarm the scene (Twitter)
One of the victims of a stabbing in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 1, 2017, is seen moments after the attack as Border Police swarm the scene (Twitter)

Also overnight Saturday-Sunday, the army raided the northern West Bank home of a terrorist who stabbed three people in Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon.

Ahmad Jazal, 17, from Sebastia, stabbed two Jewish Israeli youths in the Old City before fleeing, with police forces giving chase. He then stabbed one of the policemen before he was shot dead.

The victims — two civilians aged 18 and 20, and a border policeman in his early 20s — received treatment at the scene and were taken to Jerusalem hospitals. They were said to suffer light-to-moderate wounds. The two civilians were released from the hospital late Saturday night.

Pipe bombs seized from the home of a Palestinian prisoner in Jenin on March 31, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Pipe bombs seized from the home of a Palestinian prisoner in Jenin on March 31, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

On Friday night, Israeli soldiers in Jenin uncovered a cache of pipe bombs in the home of a Palestinian man who was arrested last month while throwing one of the explosives at the nearby al-Jalma crossing, the army said.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli troops arrested five Palestinians early Sunday morning who are suspected of throwing rocks or taking part in violent protests.

Three were arrested in Bayt Umar, north of Hebron; one was picked up in Beit Fajjar, northeast of Hebron ; and the fifth was arrested in Bayt Sahour, outside Bethlehem.

Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.

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