Shin Bet says it foiled West Bank terror cell’s plans for shooting attacks

Security agency says PFLP operative in Lebanon recruited Palestinians, including relatives, to carry out attacks against Israelis

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

Khaled Abu Alhaija, left, and Aalam Qaabi, held by Israel on suspicion of terror activity (Shin Bet)
Khaled Abu Alhaija, left, and Aalam Qaabi, held by Israel on suspicion of terror activity (Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency on Tuesday said it had foiled plans by a terror cell of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the West Bank to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and troops. It said the cell received orders from an operative in Lebanon.

According to the Shin Bet, Aalam Qaabi, originally from Nablus in the northern West Bank, was deported to the Gaza Strip in the 2011 Shalit deal, and now lives in Lebanon.

“Qaabi leads terror activity [in the West Bank], as part of which he recruits Palestinian terror operatives, some of whom are relatives, in order to carry out attacks against Israelis,” the agency said, calling Qaabi a PFLP operative.

The Shin Bet named two suspects indicted in connection with the terror cell: Murad Qaabi, a resident of the Balata refugee camp near Nablus and a relative of Aalam Qaabi, and Khaled Abu Alhaija, a resident of Jenin.

The agency said that during the investigation of Murad Qaabi, “it emerged that he was instructed by Aalam to carry out shooting attacks.” Two M16 assault rifles in Murad Qaabi’s possession were seized, the Shin Bet added.

In the investigation of Abu Alhaija, the Shin Bet said it emerged he was recruited by Aalam Qaabi “to carry out attacks and to head a military unit that would operate in the Jenin area.”

Israeli troops operate in the West Bank, early on the morning of May 29, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The pair were charged with “serious” security offenses, according to the agency. Several other suspects were also detained over suspicions they were recruited by Aalam Qaabi, the Shin Bet added.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Earlier Tuesday, the military said that troops detained 21 wanted Palestinians during sweeps across the West Bank, with violence in some areas. The Israel Defense Forces also demolished the home of a Palestinian terrorist who killed two Israeli brothers in the West Bank in February.

Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 26 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year. According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 168 West Bank Palestinians have also been killed during the same period — most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

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