PFLP threatens to ‘open the gates of hell’ if suspect hurt in interrogation dies

Terror group says Israel responsible for consequences if livelihood of its members jeopardized, calls for further violence in support of ‘our valiant prisoners’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Illustrative: A gunman from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group participates in a rally at the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Illustrative: A gunman from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group participates in a rally at the Jabaliya Refugee Camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, March 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The terror group allegedly behind a deadly attack at a West Bank natural spring warned on Sunday it would “open the gates of hell” if a key suspect in the bombing dies after being seriously injured during an Israeli interrogation.

“We hold the Israeli occupation responsible for the lives of the Palestinian prisoner Samer Arbid and his comrades, and we assure that by endangering their lives, the occupation will open the gates of hell,” the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in a statement.

The PFLP also called on the Palestinian public to carry out further violence “in support of our valiant prisoners, our soldiers on the front lines.”

Arbid, the suspected ringleader of a terror cell accused of carrying out a bombing attack last month that killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb and seriously injured her father and brother, was hospitalized Saturday in critical condition after an interrogation by the Shin Bet security service.

The Justice Ministry launched an investigation into the circumstances of the 44-year-old terror suspect’s injuries, specifically probing the degree of force along with the tactics used by the Shin Bet interrogators.

Samer Arbid, the suspected ringleader of a terror cell believed to be behind a deadly bombing attack that killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb in August 2019, in an undated photograph. (Twitter)

Arbid’s lawyers called for an international probe into the incident to be conducted by the United Nations and the International Red Cross.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel similarly criticized the alleged use of torture, saying “Israel’s moral image is reflected in the basements of the interrogation cellars of the Shin Bet.

“Law enforcement agencies are not allowed to torture detainees, whatever their suspicions. Cruel and inhuman means of investigation are categorically prohibited.”

On Saturday night, the Shin Bet revealed that it had arrested Arbid along with two other Palestinian men suspected of carrying out the August 23 attack at a natural spring outside the Dolev settlement.

Arbid has a history of involvement in terrorist activities with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, according to Israeli authorities.

IDF soldiers arrest members of a terror cell behind August bombing attack that killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb, in September 2019. (Israel Defense Forces)

He was arrested earlier this month and then released due to lack of evidence. He was picked up again on Wednesday.

The Shin Bet was given legal permission to employ “extraordinary measures” in its interrogation of Arbid, a security source told reporters Saturday. Such measures can include beatings, forcing prisoners into uncomfortable positions, sleep deprivation, shackling and subjecting prisoners to extreme temperatures.

This is typically allowed in cases of a “ticking time bomb,” where there is concern that the suspect could provide security forces with information that could prevent an imminent attack.

The Shin Bet said the cell was planning additional attacks when the suspects were arrested, including shootings and kidnappings. During the arrest raids, security forces also found and safely detonated an improvised explosive device that the group had made.

Arbid was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in critical condition after he apparently suffered a heart-related problem during the interrogation.

His attorneys said he had been healthy when he was arrested.

“Samer Arbid was severely tortured by Israeli interrogators. He was transferred to the hospital unconscious and suffers from several fractures,” his lawyers said in a statement released by the Addameer Foundation, a Palestinian legal organization that often represents terror suspects.

The Shin Bet confirmed only that Arbid had been taken to the hospital.

Rina Shnerb, 17, who was killed in a terror attack in the West Bank on August 23, 2019 (courtesy)

“During his interrogation, the leader of the terror cell that carried out the IED attack… in which Rina Shnerb was killed said he did not feel well. In accordance with protocol, he was taken for medical checks and treatment at the hospital. The investigation into the cell is ongoing,” the security service said in a statement.

On August 23, an IED that had been planted next to the Bubin natural spring in the central West Bank, near the Dolev settlement, was triggered by terrorists as the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod visited the site. Rina Shnerb was declared dead at the scene and her father Eitan and brother Dvir, 19, were taken to a hospital in Jerusalem after being wounded by the blast.

Mourners carry the body of 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb, who was killed by a bomb in a terror attack while visiting a spring near Dolev in the West Bank, during her funeral in the city of Lod on August 23, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Qassem a-Karim Rajah Shibli, 25, is suspected of manufacturing the explosive material used to make the bomb, helping put it together and setting it off, according to the security service.

Yasan Hasin Hasni Majamas, 25, is believed to have been involved in the planning and execution of the attack, the Shin Bet said.

Both Shibli and Majamas have served time in Israeli prisons for their involvement in terrorist activities, the security service said.

The Shin Bet also said it arrested a fourth man — Nizam Sami Yousef Ulad Mahmoud, 21 — who is suspected of being a member of Arbid’s cell. He is a member of the PFLP’s student group at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.

The Shin Bet said it was still looking for additional members of the terror cell.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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