The Shin Bet security agency on Wednesday said it had foiled an attempt by the Gaza Strip-ruling Hamas terror group to carry out a bombing attack on a bus in the north, using an Israeli man to plant the device.
In the early hours of April 2, Muhammed Nadir Mahajneh, 20, a resident of the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, was detained by the elite police Unit 33, also known as Gideonim, over his alleged involvement in the plot.
According to the Shin Bet, Mahajneh was recruited by the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, several months ago, to carry out a bombing against civilians on a bus in Hadera.
The agency said the suspect, due to financial pressure and mental distress, began to “adopt the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, and later decided that he wanted to commit jihad.”
Mahajneh was found to be in possession of “media used to communicate with Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” the Shin Bet and police said.
The Shin Bet investigation revealed that Mahajneh scouted out a number of locations in Israel for the bombing attack, “with an emphasis on security sites and crowded places, and sent the information he gathered to Hamas in the Gaza Strip,” the agency said.
According to an indictment filed on May 9, Mahajneh allegedly scouted out the military’s headquarters in Tel Aviv and the adjacent Azrieli Mall and Sarona Market as potential targets.
The Shin Bet published Google Maps screenshots taken by Mahajneh, which ostensibly shows he marked possible locations to plant a bomb — outside Afula Municipal Stadium and several nearby bus stops, or Hadera’s central bus station, and several other bus stops in the city.
A Hamas operative who was in contact with Mahajneh sought at one point to convince him to carry out the attack at mass demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul plans, taking place in Tel Aviv and Haifa every Saturday night, but the suspect “refused this option,” the indictment read.
Ultimately, according to instructions he received from Hamas, he chose his target: bus line 921 — from Haifa to Petah Tikva — as it passes Hadera.
According to the indictment, the Hamas operative sent Mahajneh to pick up an explosive device to be used in the attack. The primed bomb, along with NIS 2,000 in cash, was hidden in a white Subaru vehicle at the Mevo’ot Gilboa industrial zone, near Afula.
But when he arrived, the car was locked and Mahajneh was unable to retrieve the explosive. He tried to call up the Hamas operative, who did not answer, and half an hour later, Mahajneh left the area, the indictment read.
The indictment charged Mahajneh with passing information to the enemy, membership in a terror group, and conspiracy to commit a terror act of murder under aggravated circumstances, among other charges.
The security agency warned that Hamas was increasingly trying to carry out attacks in Israel.
The Shin Bet noted that two Arab Israeli men arrested in January for a similar bombing plot were likely recruited by “the same infrastructure.”
“The investigation of the affair once again reveals the efforts of Hamas to advance terror activity in Israeli territory, while trying to publicly distance itself from involvement, at the same time it falsely presents itself as wanting to advance the [long-term] arrangements in the Gaza Strip. This, while cynically exploiting Israeli citizens and recruiting them for terror activity,” a Shin Bet source said.
The Shin Bet warned that the “responsibility for such activities lies with the leadership of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, headed by Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”