IDF: Terrorists stashed M-16 in child’s ‘Dora the Explorer’ bed
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IDF: Terrorists stashed M-16 in child’s ‘Dora the Explorer’ bed

Shin Bet nabs 3 alleged members of a cell it says carried out 10 shooting attacks on northern West Bank settlements

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

An M-16 assault rifle hidden in a child's bed that was allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
An M-16 assault rifle hidden in a child's bed that was allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Security forces arrested three Palestinians suspected to have been behind 10 shootings last month, and found the assault rifle used in the attacks hidden inside a child’s Dora the Explorer bed, the army revealed on Thursday.

“This cynical exploitation of hiding things in a children’s room is known to us. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time that weapons are hidden in a child’s room or other places where they think we won’t look,” a senior IDF intelligence officer said.

The attacks took place in the first few days of April. The targets were the northern West Bank settlements of Shavei Shomron, Hermesh and Shaked, near the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus, as well as Israeli vehicles traveling on the roads and the IDF’s Salem checkpoint, the Shin Bet security service said.

The attacks did not result in any injuries, but did cause damage to property.

During interrogation, the suspects also admitted to planning more attacks, the Shin Bet said.

A pistol found by the Shin Bet security service that was allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (Shin Bet)
A pistol found by the Shin Bet security service that was allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (Shin Bet)

The frequent nighttime attacks “were a significant threat to civilians and security forces in the Samaria region,” the security service said in a statement, using the biblical name for the northern West Bank.

The three suspected terrorists were arrested in the village of Faham, southwest of Jenin, on April 4.

Two of the suspects were identified as Louie Ahmad Shafik Saabana, 34, and his cousin Mahmoud Shafik Saabana, 26. The third suspect could not be named publicly “out of operational considerations,” the Shin Bet said.

Louis Ahmad Shafik Saabana, left, and his cousin Mahmoud Shafik Saabana, arrested on suspicion of carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldeirs in the northern West Bank in April 2017. (Shin Bet)
Louis Ahmad Shafik Saabana, left, and his cousin Mahmoud Shafik Saabana, arrested on suspicion of carrying out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldeirs in the northern West Bank in April 2017. (Shin Bet)

The elder Saabana is an attorney linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group, the Shin Bet said.

However, the senior intelligence officer said the suspects did not carry out the attacks on behalf of any particular organization.

“It’s still being investigated, but it looks like it was for the dumbest reasons: boredom and things like that. It didn’t come from anything seriously nationalistic or seriously religious,” the officer said.

According to the Shin Bet, one of the suspects “expected to be killed during the activities and therefore prepared a will that he kept at home.”

The operation to locate and arrest them was carried out by the Shin Bet, IDF and the Israel Police’s West Bank Division.

A child's bed where security forces uncovered a gun allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A child’s bed where security forces uncovered a gun allegedly used to carry out shooting attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank in April 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The rifle was located inside a secret compartment of the child’s bed. The IDF released pictures of where the rifle was hidden, but would not specify in which of the suspects’ houses it was found.

“The M-16 was under a girl’s bed with — as you can see in the picture — a Dora comforter on it. That’s the last place that we as a military want to go into and search,” the senior intelligence officer said.

In addition to the M-16 assault rifle stashed in the Dora the Explorer bed, security forces elsewhere found two handguns, according to the Shin Bet.

The IDF intelligence officer said the overall cost of the weapons was over NIS 100,000 ($27,600).

“These were people with a lot of money,” he said.

Forces also seized a number of vehicles that were suspected of being used in the attacks, the Shin Bet said.

Indictments are to be filed in the coming days, the Shin Bet said.

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