Shin Bet busts Hamas cell in West Bank accused of plotting shooting attacks
Security agency says four Palestinian suspects were directed and funded by terrorist deported to Gaza in 2011 prisoner swap
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The Shin Bet security agency announced Wednesday that forces had arrested in recent weeks four Palestinians who planned to commit shooting attacks under orders of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.
The group received its directions from Belal Basharat, a Hamas terrorist released from an Israeli prison in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and deported to Gaza, the agency said.
The Shin Bet said Basharat was a member of the Gaza-based terror group’s so-called “West Bank headquarters,” a unit involved in advancing terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank.
The Shin Bet named the two “main” suspects as Anas Maraeva, 25, from the town of Ras Atiya near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, and Aslam Tubasi, 26, from Tamun in the northern West Bank. Tubasi is Basharat’s brother-in-law, according to the agency.
Belal instructed the pair to purchase weapons and obtain information in order to carry out shooting attacks against both civilians and Israeli soldiers, the Shin Bet charged.
A weapon in their possession was seized, along with cash sent to them from Hamas in Gaza, the Shin Bet said.
The service warned that the Gaza-based terrorist group was increasingly trying to carry out attacks in the West Bank and Israel.
“In recent years, many directives by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have been identified, exploiting Palestinians living in [the West Bank] to advance terrorist activities. Hamas operatives from the Gaza Strip transfer funds and armaments to operatives in the Gaza Strip in order to carry out attacks against Israeli targets,” the Shin Bet said.
The arrests came at a time of rising violence in the West Bank, with two soldiers killed in separate shooting attacks on Saturday and Tuesday, one near Jerusalem and the second near Nablus.
The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday morning imposed a closure on Nablus following Tuesday’s attack that killed Staff Sgt. Ido Baruch, as troops continued to search for the alleged gunman who fled the scene.
Police forces also clashed with Palestinians in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem amid searches for Udai Tamimi, allegedly the gunman who shot Sgt. Noa Lazar to death at a nearby checkpoint on Saturday.
Israeli forces have ratcheted up arrest raids and other counterterror efforts in the West Bank since a spate of terror attacks against Israelis in the spring killed 19 people.
In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly attacked military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements, and civilians on the roads.