Shin Bet breaks up alleged Hamas cell planning West Bank attacks

Security service warns Gaza-based group is increasingly looking to carry out terrorist acts from West Bank

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative. An M16 rifle found in the central West Bank village of Wadi Silman on August 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative. An M16 rifle found in the central West Bank village of Wadi Silman on August 25, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces broke up an alleged Hamas terrorist cell planning to carry out attacks in the West Bank, arresting five of its members in November, the Shin Bet security service revealed Monday.

The cell was led by Alaa Salim, a resident of the Palestinian West Bank town of Jaba, north of Jerusalem, but it received its directions from Abdallah Arar, a known Hamas terrorist living in the Gaza Strip, the Shin Bet said.

Arar, who was convicted for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Israeli man Sasson Nuriel in 2005, was released to the Gaza Strip from an Israeli prison six year later as part of a contentious prisoner exchange to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was being held hostage by Hamas.

The service warned that the Gaza-based terrorist group was increasingly trying to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.

Abdallah Arar, a Hamas member suspected of directing terror attacks from the Gaza Strip. (Shin Bet)

“Recently, there’s been a marked increase in motivation by the Hamas high command in the Gaza Strip to encourage terror attacks by their operatives in the West Bank,” a Shin Bet official said in a statement.

When he and the other four alleged members of the cell were arrested, Salim had already received directions from Arar to carry out attacks, along with thousands of shekels in order to purchase an M-16 assault rifle, according to the Shin Bet.

Salim contacted other residents of Jaba, Rayan and Shihadah Tua’m, to help him purchase the gun and carry out the attacks, the security service said.

Shihadah Tua’m, in turn, “reached out to Mahmoud Abu Arqoub, a young Hamas operative, a resident of A-Ram (near Jerusalem), and brought him into the cell,” the Shin Bet said.

They had not yet purchased the gun at the time of their arrest.

The security service would not reveal the identity of the fifth Palestinian suspect who was arrested.

The Shin Bet handed over the case to the military prosecution, which will review them before presumably filing an indictment.

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