The Shin Bet security service on Tuesday said it thwarted plans by Hamas members from Hebron to conduct a bombing attack in Jerusalem earlier this summer, retrieving the three-kilogram (6.6 pounds) explosive device they intended to use.
The Shin Bet said the cell, along with others arrested by Israeli forces in recent months, had been directed to carry out attacks against Israeli and Palestinian Authority targets by Hamas’s military wing in the Gaza Strip.
“The operatives in the West Bank were instructed to form cells in order to carry out kidnappings, shootings and stabbings, purchase weaponry, and find and recruit additional operatives for terrorist activities,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
The security service did not elaborate on the details of the planned Jerusalem bombing.
A member of the cell planning the Jerusalem bombing, university student Tamer Rajah Rajbi, was arrested in Hebron in June, leading to additional arrests of other Hamas operatives, including other students, the security service said.
Details of the case were censored until Tuesday, after Rajbi’s indictment the day before. Other members of the cell were indicted in recent weeks.
According to the Shin Bet, Rajbi, 22, was recruited by Hamas to act as a bomb-maker for the organization and was trained in manufacturing explosive devices. To that end, he set up an improvised laboratory in his home and kept some of the materials in a school next to his house, putting the surrounding civilians at risk, the security service said.
“During his arrest, Tamer handed over an explosive device weighing three kilograms (6.6 pounds), which had dozens of pieces of metal attached to it to maximize fragmentation and injury in the explosion. The device was meant to be used to carry out a bombing attack,” the Shin Bet said.
A photograph of the device showed that it was covered in small pieces of metal, which would be hurled into bystanders by the power of the blast and cause additional damage. The bomb was destroyed in a controlled explosion by Israeli security forces.
Rajbi studied at Hebron’s Palestine Polytechnic University and was an active member in the Hamas-affiliaited al-Kutla al-Islamiya student group, the Shin Bet said.
“Tamer was trained by a network in the Gaza Strip, using the internet, receiving a detailed presentation on how to purchase the ingredients needed to create explosive and how to manufacture [bombs],” the Shin Bet said.
The security service said in addition to the three-kilogram bomb, Rajbi had been tasked by Gaza-based Hamas operatives with creating more bombs for terror attacks in his makeshift lab.
According to the Shin Bet, Rajbi enlisted the help of another Palestine Polytechnic University student, Yusef Atrash, 22, in this effort.
“Yusef assisted Tamer in purchasing the components needed for manufacturing the bomb,” the security service said.
The Shin Bet identified two Gaza-based Hamas members as responsible for directing Rajbi’s activities: Ramzi al-Ouk and Ahmed Katari.
“The Hamas terror group is not queasy about the tools it uses and takes advantage of young people from the West Bank, harming them and their families, in order to advance terrorist activities,” the Shin Bet said.
In May, the security service arrested a Hamas agent from the Gaza Strip accused of traveling to the West Bank and then Israel in order to set up an explosives lab, under the guise of needing medical treatment.
Fadi Abu al-Sabah, 35, was recruited by Hamas in July of 2018 and trained by the terror group’s military wing for about a year. He was taught to create explosives and bombs with the aim of carrying out attacks against Israelis, the Shin Bet said last month.
Al-Sabah was arrested after he crossed into the Arab Israeli town of Taybeh.
In recent months, the Shin Bet says it has thwarted several attempts by Hamas to establish infrastructure in the West Bank with the purpose of carrying out terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank.
In March the Israeli military arrested a Hamas operative suspected of planning a suicide car bombing to coincide with Israel’s national elections in April.
And in June, the Shin Bet said it arrested a Jordanian national acting on behalf of Iranian intelligence to establish a spy network in Israel and the West Bank.