Cleared for publication: A joint Shin Bet, IDF
and police operation, which took place over the past few months, has led to the discovery of several Hamas
terror cells which were plotting attacks in Israel.
According to information obtained by Ynet on Wednesday, only one of the cells was able to carry out its nefarious plan, planting a bomb
at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, in March. One British tourist was killed and 47 people were injured in the attack.
A senior Shin Bet official told Ynet that the widespread terror organization was indicative of a concentrated effort by Hamas to rebuild its military infrastructure in the West Bank as means of carrying out attacks against Israeli targets.
The infrastructure uncovered, he added, revealed the cooperation within Hamas' own factions, including the participation of overseas Hamas bases and growing attempts to smuggle weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.
Some of the suspects arrested (Photo courtesy of the Shin Bet)
As part of the operation, dozens of Hamas operatives, comprising at least 13 terror cells, were arrested across the West Bank over the past few weeks.
Ynet has learnt that the terror attacks thwarted included a suicide attack by a bomber who was supposed to blow himself up In Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood.
The explosives meant for the attack included a bag which was to conceal a fire extinguisher packed with three kilograms of explosive and topped with shrapnel.
The device was discovered at the Ras al-Amud home of a 23-year-old Azhak Arrafa, a resident of east Jerusalem who has an Israeli ID. He was later identified as a Hamas operative. Following Arrafa's arrest, Israeli security forces were able to arrest the would-be suicide bomber, Said Qawasmeh (20), from Hebron.
The investigation also linked Arrafa to the attack in the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. He admitted his involvement in the case and confessed to planning a second attack – an abduction of an Israeli citizen in the area.
One of the bombs discovered (Photo courtesy of the Shin Bet)
According to available information, Arrafa and Qawasmeh were members of a terror cell that began its operations in August.
The cell's infrastructure was provided by Hamas police in Syria,
which transferred funds to the West Bank cell via courier. The cell's Syrian masters also relayed instruction for future terror attacks, including the foiled abduction attack.
Israeli intelligence officers were able to identify the courier as Iman al-Adm, a 39-year-old Jordanian national who has a Palestinian ID. He was arrested while trying to return to Jordan.
His interrogation revealed that he had undergone extensive military training in Syria and was involved in Hamas operations worldwide, including in Syria, Turkey
Security forces raids conducted as part of the operation resulted in dozens of arrests, mostly of terror operatives who were incarcerated in Israel at one time or another for terror-related offenses.
Israeli intelligence officers uncovered a Hamas cell based in Ktziot Prison, whose leaders tried to recruit prisoners who were about to be released to carry out attacks on Israeli targets in the West Bank.
The recruits were told to focus on abducting IDF soldiers, who would be used as bargaining chips in a future prisoner exchange deal.
Intelligence sources told Ynet that the West Bank infrastructure was partially funded by Gaza-based Hamas elements.
In June, Shin Bet and IDF officers were able to expose a Hamas terror cell preparing to abduct IDF soldiers. The West Bank-based cell received its instruction from Gaza, and was scheduled to receive smuggled arms, to be used in the abduction.
One of the operatives arrested in connection to the foiled abduction, 42-year-old Shaher Skaphi from Hebron, detailed in his interrogation exactly how his cell was instructed to kidnap and guard an Israeli solider, and when the time came – how to negotiate for his release in exchange for Hamas prisoners held in Israel.
A senior Shin Bet official told Ynet that the extensive infrastructure discovered was indicative of Hamas' increasing motivation to terrorize Israel.
Hamas activities, he added, are being carried out regretless of the Palestinian Authority's nearing UN bid
for recognition. Israeli security forces are operating tirelessly to thwart terror threats, he continued.
As for the PA, Israeli security sources said they believe Ramallah has no interest in seeing violence in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip escalate, adding that the Palestinian security forces and their Israeli counterparts were working together to prevent riots and are ready for a wide range of scenarios.
Yair Altman contributed to this report