Shin Bet busts Gaza-directed terror cell planning ‘major’ bombing in Israel
Four West Bank Palestinians detained earlier this month over alleged plot, explosive device hidden in fire extinguisher seized; Lapid hails arrests
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The Shin Bet security agency on Monday said it recently foiled an attempt by terror groups in the Gaza Strip to carry out a bombing attack in Israel using West Bank terror operatives
On December 14, security forces arrested four Palestinians in the West Bank over their involvement in the plot, and seized a primed explosive device, the agency said.
According to the Shin Bet, the attack plan was directed by the Popular Resistance Committees and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades terror groups in the Gaza Strip. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is loosely tied to the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but also has members in Gaza.
The Shin Bet said the groups planned a “significant terror attack in Israel” using a bomb hidden in a fire extinguisher. The device was seized before it could be planted in an Israeli city.
The group received its instructions from Ahmed Fathi Omar Hajaj, an explosives expert and resident of the northern Gaza Strip city of Jabaliya who is known to the Shin Bet, the agency said.
The Shin Bet also named four more terror operatives in the Gaza Strip who allegedly assisted in recruiting the West Bank attackers: Maha Ladawi, a resident of the Nuseirat refugee camp; and Jihad Ahmed, Sabari Aram, and Amin Zakot, residents of the southern Gazan city of Rafah.
The detained operatives in the West Bank were named by the agency as Younis Odeh from the village of al-Ras, Haled Marei from the town of Bal’a, Ahmed Taher Jaradat from the city of Jenin, and Kayes a-Shiab from the city of Qabatiya.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the arrests, vowing that security forces would “reach anyone who tries to hurt the citizens of Israel.”
He said the Gaza-directed cell was “planning to carry out a major terror attack in Israel.”
“The war against terror infrastructures and terrorists continues every day, in all arenas. Security forces continue to act, constantly, to thwart any attempt to harm us,” Lapid said in a statement.
The Shin Bet warned that Gaza-based terrorist groups were increasingly trying to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.
“Israel views the terror activity directed from the Gaza Strip toward the West Bank and Israel with severity, and works to thwart any threat ahead of time, and considers Hamas to be responsible for all terror activity emanating from the Gaza Strip,” the agency said.
The arrests came at a time of rising violence in the West Bank, with the military pressing on with an anti-terror offensive to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 31 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year.
The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, and has left 170 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.