Shin Bet says it busted Turkey-based Hamas ring planning attacks in Israel

Agency says West Bank Palestinian student traveling abroad was recruited by terror group, instructed to enlist other relatives in suspected bombing plot

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and banners, and Palestinian flags, near the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians hold Hamas flags and banners, and Palestinian flags, near the Al Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 20, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

Four Palestinians from the West Bank were detained in recent weeks over plans to carry out attacks on behalf of the Hamas terror group, the Shin Bet security agency said Monday.

According to the Shin Bet, Ahmed Mahmoud Abu Salah, 24, a student, was arrested several weeks ago after returning from studying abroad.

The Shin Bet said that while in Turkey, Abu Salah was recruited by Hamas and carried out military training in Turkey and Syria.

The training included “weapons training and studying the manufacturing of explosives, in order to advance terror attacks against the State of Israel,” the agency said.

Before returning to the West Bank, Abu Salah allegedly met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, who instructed him to recruit others for a local cell to carry out terror attacks.

The interrogation of Abu Salah led to the arrest of three others, relatives of the main suspect, the Shin Bet said. Iyas Mahmoud Abu Salah, 20, Salah Mahmoud Abu Salah, 23, and Hassin Fauz Aqra, 25, all planned to carry out attacks, including a bombing attack, according to the Shin Bet.

A Shin Bet handout photo published March 6, 2023, showing mugshots of, from left, Hassin Fauz Aqra, Ahmed Mahmoud Abu Salah, Iyas Mahmoud Abu Salah, and Salah Mahmoud Abu Salah. (Shin Bet)

Iyas Mahmoud Abu Salah and Hassin Fauz Aqra sought to join Hamas in the Gaza Strip at one stage, the Shin Bet said. The three additional suspects were also accused of hurling stones at police officers on the Temple Mount during Ramadan in April 2022.

The Shin Bet said the four were regularly in contact with a relative who lives in Turkey who is the son of a senior Hamas official there.

Abadah Abu Salah, the son of the senior Hamas member Salah Abu Salah (who is separate from the aforementioned Salah Mahmoud Abu Salah), worked “under the guidance of senior Hamas officials in Turkey,” especially Saleh al-Arouri, who is regarded as the military commander of Hamas’s West Bank division, the Shin Bet said.

The agency said Abadah Abu Salah “took advantage of the family connection with the accused and their stay in Turkey for the purpose of studies, in order to recruit some of them.”

Turkey has long had close ties with the Gaza Strip-based Hamas, and hosts terror group officials and units in the country. Jerusalem has also long pressed Ankara to crack down on Hamas’s activity in Turkey, arguing that the Gaza-based terror group uses its representatives there to orchestrate terror attacks against Israelis.

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