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Shin Bet foils plan by Arab Israelis to attack soldiers

Plotters reportedly wanted revenge for Israel outlawing the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement

Thousands of supporters of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and its Northern Branch leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, demonstrate against Israel's decision to outlaw the Northern Branch, on November 28, 2015, in Umm al-Fahm, northern Israel. (Muammar Awad/Flash90)
Thousands of supporters of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and its Northern Branch leader, Sheikh Raed Salah, demonstrate against Israel's decision to outlaw the Northern Branch, on November 28, 2015, in Umm al-Fahm, northern Israel. (Muammar Awad/Flash90)

The Shin Bet security agency said Tuesday it had foiled a plan by Arab Israelis to attack soldiers in the southern Negev desert, apparently in retaliation for Israel’s decision to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement.

Two of the suspects — Muhammad Masri, 37, of Beersheba, and Abd Allah Abu Ayash, 26, from Kasifa — are accused of plotting to attack soldiers at three possible locations: Dimona, Arad, and the Nevatim air force base in the Negev Desert, the Shin Bet security service said in a statement.

During the investigation, agents recovered a rifle and several devices that could be used to detonate explosive devices from a distance, it said.

According to the Shin Bet, Masri had previously been imprisoned for 12 years for planning an attack on a Herzliya wedding hall. Since his release in 2013 he had been involved with the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, an Islamist group that was outlawed in 2015.

The rifle that two Arab Israelis planned to use in an attack against IDF soldiers, shown on December 27, 2016 after it was recovered by the Shin Bet security service (Shin Bet)
The rifle that two Arab Israelis planned to use in an attack against IDF soldiers, shown on December 27, 2016 after it was recovered by the Shin Bet security service (Shin Bet)

“During the investigation by the Shin Bet and the police it became clear that Masri planned the attack as revenge for outlawing the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement,” the statement said.

The Northern Branch rejects the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s between Israel and the Palestinians, and boycotts Israel’s national elections on the grounds that they give legitimacy to the institutions of the Jewish state. Israel charges the Northern Branch with having links to terrorist groups and inciting the recent wave of deadly violence.

 Muhammad Masri (L) and Abd Allah Abu Ayash were arrested on suspicion of planning attacks against Israeli soldiers in the Negev. (Courtesy/ Shin Bet )
Muhammad Masri (L) and Abd Allah Abu Ayash were arrested on suspicion of planning attacks against Israeli soldiers in the Negev. (Courtesy/ Shin Bet )

The more moderate Southern Branch has remained legal.

The statement said that Masri recruited Abu Ayash who worked with him in a supermarket, and they started planning the attacks, with Masri using the connections he made in prison with Palestinian terrorists, including Hamas members.

Three other Arab Israelis have also been arrested for dealing in arms, according to the Shin Bet. Masri and Abu Ayash are to be indicted in the coming days, the Shin Bet said, adding that further arrests were expected.

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