Shin Bet says it foiled bomb plot planned by Israeli citizen on behalf of Hamas
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Shin Bet says it foiled bomb plot planned by Israeli citizen on behalf of Hamas

Resident of Bedouin town of Segev Shalom suspected of choosing Bilu Junction bus stop as target; Mahmoud Makdad said to have spied on Iron Dome batteries, received training in Gaza

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Bedouin-Israeli Mahmoud Makdad who planned to bomb a bus stop at the Bilu Junction, according to a Shin Bet statement on September 7, 2020. (Shin Bet)
Bedouin-Israeli Mahmoud Makdad who planned to bomb a bus stop at the Bilu Junction, according to a Shin Bet statement on September 7, 2020. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security service released information Monday on what it said was a foiled bomb plot involving an Israeli citizen who received training and orders from the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip.

Mahmoud Makdad, 30, from the Bedouin town of Shaqib al-Salam (known in Hebrew as Segev Shalom) in the south of the country was arrested on August 15, the service said in a statement.

Nine of his family members and acquaintances were also arrested, including his brother Ahmad, 32. Most of the suspects are residents of Segev Shalom and are suspected of knowing about his plans and doing nothing, and in some cases helping to plan the attack.

The statement said indictments on serious security offenses would be filed against Mahmoud and Ahmad at the Beersheba District Court.

Bedouin-Israeli Mahmoud Makdad who planned to bomb a bus stop at the Bilu Junction, according to a Shin Bet statement on September 7, 2020. (Shin Bet)

The son of an Israeli Bedouin mother and a father from the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Makdad is married to a Palestinian in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave. His circumstances allowed him to move back and forth between Israel and Gaza under humanitarian programs that Israel grants, enabling the unification of families divided by the border. His parents were similarly able to be together due to the programs, the Shin Bet said.

Hamas was hoping to make use of Makdad’s ability to move between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the statement said..

“This is further evidence of the efforts that the military wing of Hamas is investing in establishing a terror infrastructure in Israel, as part of its systematic and broad activities against Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and Israel,” a senior Shin Bet official, not named, said in the statement.

It “testifies to the strategy that the Hamas leadership continues to lead of upsetting regional stability. This, despite and alongside the efforts for agreement that are going on all the time,” he added, referring to ongoing mediation efforts between Israel and the terror group through various international parties.

An improvised explosive device Bedouin-Israeli Mahmoud Makdad planned to use to bomb a bus stop at the Bilu Junction, according to a Shin Bet statement on September 7, 2020. (Shin Bet)

According to the Shin Bet, Makdad agreed to work for Hamas in 2019. He was initially recruited to gather intelligence on sites in the southern Negev region of Israel, and then later to carry out bomb attacks.

Makdad began collecting intelligence, including providing information on the locations of Iron Dome anti-missile system batteries that Israel deploys to protect itself against rocket attacks from Gaza.

In recent months Makdad spent time in the Gaza Strip and before his latest return to Israel underwent training by Hamas on assembling improvised explosives, investigators alleged.

Since returning to Israel in June 2020 he bought ammunition and began constructing a bomb, the statement said. He also began scouting out a location to carry out the bombing while maintaining covert contact with his handlers in the Gaza Strip,

Makdad eventually chose as his target a bus stop at the Bilu Junction, a busy site in the central region of the country, near Rehovot, that includes a large shopping mall.

View of the parking lot and shops in Bilu Center, in Kiryat Ekron, April 20, 2020. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

His brother Ahmad was fully aware of his contact with Hamas and his intention to carry out an attack and did not take any action to prevent the bombing from happening, the statement said. Ahmad Makdad is also suspected of helping in the surveillance of Iron Dome sites.

Bedouin-Israeli Ahmad Makdad who allegedly helped his brother Mahmoud to plot a bomb attack at the Bilu Junction, according to a Shin Bet statement on September 7, 2020. (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet noted the arrests of three other Israelis earlier this year in two other alleged Hamas plots. Rajab Daka and Rami Amoudi were arrested in January and Aya Khatib in February.

Amoudi, 30, and Daka, 34 were recruited by Hamas in October 2019 and tasked with filming security installations in central Israel, including “military bases, police stations and Iron Dome battery placements,” the Shin Bet said at the time.

And Khatib, 31, from the northern town of Ar’ara, was recruited to use her position as a humanitarian worker on behalf of the needy in Gaza to funnel money, supplies and intelligence to the Hamas terror group.

Hamas “continues to act to recruit Israeli citizens for the purpose of spying missions and carrying out attacks inside Israeli territory,” Shin Bet said in the Monday statement.

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