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Shin Bet nabs 3 Palestinian men in Hamas plot to bomb Jerusalem soccer arena

Security service says the trio’s plans to blow up Teddy Stadium fell through, so they instead tried to carry out attacks on IDF soldiers in West Bank

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

Illustrative photo of Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium during an international soccer match, on October 10, 2015. (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium during an international soccer match, on October 10, 2015. (Flash90)

Israeli security forces arrested three Palestinian men last month who are suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, including a bombing in the capital’s Teddy Stadium, the Shin Bet security service said Wednesday.

According to the Shin Bet, the three members of the terror cell — Ahmad Sajdaya, 27, Muhammad Hammad, 26, and Umar Eid, 24 — initially planned to construct a bomb and set it off in Teddy Stadium, performing reconnaissance operations and other preparations before realizing that such an attack would be too difficult to carry out due to the arena’s tight security.

Instead, the trio planned to carry out bombing attacks on IDF troops in the central West Bank and attempted a number of attacks last month around the city of Ramallah, the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, the three men also assisted in a number of attempted bombings against Israeli troops in recent years.

From left, Mohammad Hammad, Umar Eid, and Ahmad Sajdaya, suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, who were arrested in March 2020. (Shin Bet)

The suspects met as students in Birzeit University in the West Bank, where they all belonged to the Hamas-affiliated Kutla Islamiya student group.

According to the Shin Bet, Sajdaya, of the Qalandiya refugee camp, had a history of preparing explosive devices, having lost part of his hand in an accident with one a few years ago.

The security service said Eid, a resident of the West Bank village of Deir Jarir, had an Israeli identity card. Hammad, who lived in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Kafr Aqab, did not have permanent Israeli residency, the Shin Bet said.

According to the security service, Eid went to a soccer game at Teddy Stadium on April 12, 2019, in order to collect intelligence on the location so that the trio could set off a bomb there, using his Israeli ID card to freely enter the capital from the West Bank.

Plans to make a bomb that were found in the possession of three Palestinian men suspected of planning to carry out terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank, who were arrested in March 2020. (Shin Bet)

“However, when he saw the security measures at the location, he understood that [an attack] would not be possible,” the Shin Bet said.

Instead, the cell tried to carry out attacks on IDF troops around Ramallah using remote-controlled explosives.

The Shin Bet said the trio attempted such an attack last month when Israeli forces entered Ramallah, but failed.

According to the security service, the three downloaded plans for bombs from the internet and purchased the chemicals needed to make them, along with nails and other pieces of metal to pack into their devices to make them deadlier.

The Shin Bet said the funding for the trio’s activities came from an official from Kutla Islamiya, Rahman Hamdan, who lives in Ramallah. The security service said he also put the cell in direct contact with the Hamas terror group.

The Shin Bet credited their arrest of Eid, Sajdaya and Hammad with preventing a “severe terror attack against Israeli civilians and soldiers,” adding that this was another case of terrorists being associated with the Kutla Islamiya, or Islamic Bloc, organization.

“This thwarted attack shows the danger and high motivation of the terrorist infrastructures operating in the West Bank to carry out significant terror attacks,” the Shin Bet said.

Following Shin Bet’s announcement the Israeli military released video footage  from the arrests.

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