PA forces thwart Hamas attack drone plot in West Bank

Israeli defense officials confirm that terror cell operating near Hebron planned to launch explosive-laden UAV at targets in Israel

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Palestinian security forces recently uncovered a terror cell in the West Bank plotting to launch unmanned aerial vehicles laden with explosives at Israel, Palestinian security officials told The Times of Israel Friday.

During intensive activities near Hebron, in which PA security authorities arrested Hamas activists at the city’s university, officers uncovered a terrorist network in the advanced stages of planning to launch a UAV into Israel. Multiple suspects were arrested and the plot was foiled.

Investigation of the cell found that Hamas operatives had already run several test flights on the drone, and had intended to attach explosives to it in order to strike targets in Israel.

Israeli defense officials confirmed the report and noted that the PA security forces had recently chalked up other unspecified impressive achievements in their fight against terrorist groups operating in the West Bank.

The Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has flown intelligence-gathering drones into Israeli territory on two separate occasions in the past year: The Israeli Air Force shot down a drone it said was operated by Hezbollah in April; and in October 2012, another Hezbollah UAV was downed over southern Israel.

During last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF Spokesperson said Hamas was developing attack drones and that the IAF struck several depots storing unmanned aircraft.

Hezbollah and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have both been accused of assisting Hamas with developing its UAV program.

Palestinian Authority forces have maintained their security coordination with Israel, and their noticeable increase in activity against Hamas and Islamic Jihad has apparently taken place in light of the rise in attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank. This runs contrary to claims by some Israeli ministers who charged that the PA wasn’t doing enough to combat terrorism.

Hamas announced on Thursday that PA intelligence arrested one of its members in Ramallah, Dia Kashua, a pharmacy student. Another Hamas activist from the village of Saida, next to Tulkarem, was ordered to report to the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence headquarters for investigation.

In a first, Palestinian protesters from the Qalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem blocked the main road connecting Ramallah and the capital on Thursday in protest at the PA’s detention of a local man for the past eight months. Rabia Hamed, an Islamist activist, was formerly a detainee in an Israeli prison. According to the residents of the camp, a Palestinian court ordered his release, but Palestinian military intelligence continued to detain him.

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