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Israel said to arrest over 100 Hamas members in Hebron area in major sweep

TV reporter, who accompanied troops, says cell operating out of southern West Bank hoped to carry out several attacks in area and inside Israel, directed from Turkey

IDF soldiers seen carrying out arrest raids in the Hebron area (Screencapture/Channel 13)
IDF soldiers seen carrying out arrest raids in the Hebron area (Screencapture/Channel 13)

Israeli troops operating in the Hebron region in the southern West Bank have in recent days arrested more than 100 Hamas members who were planning to carry out terror attacks, Channel 13 reported on Monday.

There was no official comment from the Israel Defense Forces; however, the TV crew accompanied troops on some of the raids that took place over the last two weeks.

The report said that the raids were sparked by a recent botched terror attack, when a 16-year-old Hamas member, armed with an M-16 rifle, tried to carry out a shooting at the entrance to the Efrat settlement south of Jerusalem, but failed and fled when his gun jammed.

The incident led the IDF and the Shin Bet security service to realize that there were Hamas cells armed with military-grade weapons operating in the Hebron area who were planning attacks in the West Bank and Israel, the report said.

In the last two weeks, a range of IDF units have been operating in Hebron and the surrounding villages looking for members of the ring. The report called it one of the largest operations in recent years against Hamas in the West Bank and said more than 100 members of the terror group’s military wing had been detained.

“We are operating on a very wide-ranging and aggressive scale in order to prevent the next attack,” one of the officers taking part told Chanel 13.

IDF soldiers seen carrying out arrest raids in the Hebron area (Screencapture/Channel 13)

The report compared it to the arrests announced last month of a major Hamas cell operating in the northern West Bank.

However, those arrests were publicly announced by the IDF and Shin Bet, which detailed the members captured and killed, the arms recovered and the targets they were planning to hit.

The report said that the Hebron cells, like the other cell, were being directed by a Hamas operative based in Turkey, who was released in the Gilad Shalit deal, but did not name him.

The accusation is similar to one made during the bust of the other cell.

IDF soldiers take away a suspect detained during raids in the Hebron area of the West Bank (Screencapture/Channel 13)

According to the Shin Bet, it was led from afar by Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the terror group’s politburo, and Zacharia Najib, a member of the organization who was released from Israeli prison in the 2011 Shalit exchange. In the 2011 deal, over 1,000 Palestinian terrorists were released from Israeli incarceration in exchange for the release of Shalit, an IDF soldier who had been kidnapped by Hamas along the Gaza border in 2006.

Both al-Arouri and Najib live in Turkey, which has long had a close relationship with Hamas, which is politically linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Israeli officials generally believe that Hamas is looking to carry out attacks in the West Bank and in Israel while maintaining relative calm in the Gaza Strip, where the group serves as the de facto ruler.

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