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Shin Bet: PFLP terror cells with ties to Iran, Hezbollah busted in West Bank

Security service says Tehran and its proxies gave training, money and direction to Palestinians, who planned to carry out attacks on Israeli targets and kidnap soldier

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

Yazen Abu Salah, left, and Muhammad Abu Salah, right, who the Shin Bet says were part of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror cell planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel, in undated photographs. (Shin Bet)
Yazen Abu Salah, left, and Muhammad Abu Salah, right, who the Shin Bet says were part of a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror cell planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel, in undated photographs. (Shin Bet)

Israeli security forces arrested 10 members of two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror cells that planned to carry out attacks in the West Bank with funding and training from Iran and Hezbollah, the Shin Bet security service said Tuesday.

According to the Shin Bet, the cells planned to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and within Israel, “including an attack in the [northern Israeli] town of Harish and kidnapping a soldier to use as leverage to get prisoners released from Israeli prison.”

The security service said one of the leaders of the two cells — Yazen Abu Salah, 23, of Arraba in the northern West Bank — purchased weapons for the attacks and recruited several of the members to carry them out. One of the cells was allegedly based in the northern West Bank’s Samaria region, and the other in Ramallah.

Abu Salah was arrested in April and interrogated by the Shin Bet, providing investigators with information on the other members of the cells, as well as on his organization’s connections to Iran and its proxies, the security service said.

According to the Shin Bet, one of the main points of contact was through a Palestinian civil organization — the Arab Nationalist Youth — that the PFLP cells used as a front for their activities. The Arab Nationalist Youth operated under the direction of a militant organization known as the Arab Nationalist Guard, based out of Syria, which fought alongside the Syrian military against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terror groups.

“During Yazen’s interrogation, it came out that he planned to go to Lebanon for military training, including learning how to shoot, create weapons, operate drones and more,” the security service said.

Following Abu Salah’s interrogation, the Shin Bet and Israel Defense Forces arrested his cousin, Muhammad Abu Salah, who was apparently involved in the Ramallah cell.

“During Muhammad’s interrogation, it came out that the organization conducted joint exercises with officials in Iran, as well as Hezbollah and the Syrian military, and they were also sources of funding for the organization’s activities,” the Shin Bet said.

Assad al-Amili, who the Shin Bet says led a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror cell planning to carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel, in an undated photograph. (Shin Bet)

According to the security service, the PFLP cells efforts were directed by Assad al-Amili, who is based out of Lebanon and “works fully on behalf of Iranian officials in Syria.”

After Yazen and Muhammad Abu Salah, Israeli security forces arrested eight other members of the cells who were “involved in planning attacks against Israeli targets,” the Shin Bet said.

The names of the other eight suspects were not released. It was not immediately clear when they were arrested.

The Shin Bet has long accused Iran of encouraging terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and Israel.

In March, the security service arrested an Israeli national who it said was working on behalf of Iranian intelligence to both gather information about Israeli strategic sites and carry out terror attacks in Israel.

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