Shin Bet busts Islamic Movement cell suspected of planning shooting attack
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Shin Bet busts Islamic Movement cell suspected of planning shooting attack

Arab Israeli suspects allegedly plotted to shoot IDF soldiers in response to government's outlawing of their group's Northern Branch

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

From left, Fares al-Umari, Muhammad Masri and Mahmoud Luisi, who are charged with planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers in the Negev desert on behalf of the Islamic Movement. (Shin Bet)
From left, Fares al-Umari, Muhammad Masri and Mahmoud Luisi, who are charged with planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers in the Negev desert on behalf of the Islamic Movement. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security service broke up a cell of three Arab Israeli men from the Islamic Movement who are suspected of planning to carry out shooting attacks against IDF soldiers, the agency revealed on Tuesday.

According to the security agency, the men began plotting the attack in November 2015 in response to Israel’s decision to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

Their plan was to carry out shooting attacks against soldiers in the Negev desert region, and they conducted reconnaissance trips to find the best possible location, the Shin Bet said in a statement.

They put together their plan throughout 2016, purchasing a Carlo-style improvised submachine gun, as well as electronic transmitters to set off explosives from afar, the Shin Bet said.

The gun was later recovered by the security agency.

A Carlo-style submachine gun recovered by the Shin Bet, with which three Arab Israeli men from the Islamic Movement are suspected of planning to carry out a shooting attack against IDF soldiers. (Shin Bet)
A Carlo-style submachine gun recovered by the Shin Bet, with which three Arab Israeli men from the Islamic Movement are suspected of planning to carry out a shooting attack against IDF soldiers. (Shin Bet)

Two of the suspected cell members — Muhammad Masri of Beersheba and Abdullah Abu Ayyash of nearby Kuseife — were arrested in December 2016. The third member of the cell, Mahmoud Luisi of Qalansawe, wasn’t arrested until March 2017, as he had traveled to Turkey.

The Israel Police’s Southern and Northern divisions were both involved in the arrests, the Shin bet said.

According to the Shin Bet, while in Turkey, Luisi met with Majid Hassan Rajab Abu Qatish, a senior member of Hamas who was freed in the 2011 Gilat Shalit prisoner exchange.

Luisi asked Abu Qatish for funding and training from the terrorist organization, the Shin Bet said.

Luisi was picked up by the Shin Bet upon his return to Israel, the security service said.

The Shin Bet said this investigation “revealed the shared ideology and deep connection between operatives of the two organizations.”

The interrogations of those three men also led to the arrest of Fares al-Omari, a senior member of the Islamic Movement, as well as two unnamed men from the Galilee, who are suspected of illegally selling weapons.

According to the Shin Bet, al-Omari gave the three men the official go-ahead to carry out their planned attack.

Indictments have been filed against the suspects, the Shin Bet said.

Last week, seven suspected senior members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement were charged with offenses against state security for raising millions of shekels overseas for outlawed their group.

In November 2015, Israel declared the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement illegal, charging it with links to terrorist groups and inciting the wave of violence that began the month before.

The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement rejects the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians and boycotts national elections on the grounds that they give legitimacy to the institutions of the Jewish state.

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