Shin Bet says it foiled plot by Arab Israelis, Palestinians to assassinate Ben Gvir

Group allegedly planned RPG hit on far-right national security minister; also said to plan attacks at Ben Gurion Airport, IDF bases, government complex in Jerusalem

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

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party at the Knesset, on March 18, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Shin Bet security agency announced Thursday that it had foiled plans by a cell of Arab Israelis and West Bank Palestinians to carry out terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank, including assassinating National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Seven Arab Israelis and four West Bank Palestinians were arrested in connection with the plot, the agency said.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell also planned attacks against IDF bases and other sensitive sites, including Ben Gurion Airport and the government complex in Jerusalem.

The cell had planned to attack the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba.

“Within this framework, there was even an intention to assassinate National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, by obtaining an RPG rocket in order to carry out the attack,” the Shin Bet said.

The minister, who leads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, lives in Kiryat Arba.

The suspects arrested for an alleged plot to kill National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in a image released on April 4, 2024 (Shin Bet)

The agency said the cell also sought to kidnap IDF soldiers.

According to the Shin Bet, the cell planned to rent a plot of land in southern Israel’s Rahat or an area in the West Bank to establish a factory with an underground complex where it would manufacture weapons and train operatives.

The agency said the cell members worked to contact Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip to receive funding and instructions. At least one of the Palestinian detainees was in contact with a Hamas operative in Gaza, who offered funding for attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet said.

The Arab Israeli suspects are named as Bilal Nassara, the head of the cell, from Rahat; Wissam Siwati, from Rahat; Hamza Ghaith, from Rahat; Saud Abu Laban, from Rahat; Sameh al-Obra, from Rahat; Yousef Abu Hawli, from Lod; and Fahmi Kathani, from Ma’ale Iron.

The Palestinian suspects are named as Akram Ammer, responsible for recruitment, from Tulkarem; Muhammad Sabheh, from Tulkarem; Ahmed Atiq, from Jenin; and Ahmed Saleh, from Jenin.

Indictments were filed on Thursday against 10 of the suspects at the Beersheba District Court.

In 2022, the Shin Bet uncovered a previous plot by a Hamas terror cell in East Jeruslaem to assassinate Ben Gvir, who at the time was an opposition MK in the Knesset.

A general view shows houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, May 10, 2023. (Wisam Hashlamounn/ Flash90)

Meanwhile, in a separate case, security forces foiled a plot by three East Jerusalem men who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State and planned to carry out terror attacks in the capital, Israel Police and the Shin Bet general security service said in a statement Thursday.

Two of the men plotted to place explosives and carry out a shooting attack on a police station in East Jerusalem as well as at Teddy Stadium in the capital, which has the largest capacity in the country and hosts some of the national team’s home soccer matches.

The pair, described as being in their 20s, tried to prepare an explosive device for the attacks but were unsuccessful.

They then joined with the third person who advised them on their planned attack and urged them to go overseas for military training, the statement said.

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

The third person, described as in his 50s and a resident of Sawahra in the West Bank, convinced them to travel to Africa and from there to Syria or Iraq. In addition to weapons training, they were also to receive instruction on promoting terrorism in Israel and abroad.

Police and Shin Bet uncovered their intentions, and they were arrested before they could leave the country. Another East Jerusalem resident, also in his 20s, was later arrested on suspicion of being involved in the plot.

The three East Jerusalem men were arrested last month. It was not clear from the statement if the Sawahra resident was also arrested.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court has extended the remand of the three detained suspects several times, the statement said. Prosecutors were expected to file indictments on Thursday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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