Cleared for publication: Thirteen northern Israel
residents were arrested last month on suspicion they planned terrorist attacks. Police and Shin Bet
forces seized 21 kg of C4 explosives, advanced explosive mechanisms, weapons and narcotics. The suspects were on orders from Hezbollah
and were meant to target Israelis. Serious indictments have been filed against 10 of the suspects.
An investigation was launched in early July after Israeli intelligence officers received information regarding the smuggling of a large quantity of explosives.
The information was relayed to the Shin Bet and a joint investigation revealed that 24 demolition blocks had been smuggled from Lebanon
to Israel via the village of Ghajar
on June 5. Advanced operating systems had been utilized in the operation.
Security forces apprehended two separate cells – a Ghajar cell responsible for smuggling the weapons, and a Nazareth cell that was meant to receive the explosives, hide them and transfer them to terrorists. One of the suspects is a resident of Ibtin.
Abdullah Zoabi taken into custody (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Police sappers who examined the devices found they were ready to be detonated and unlike other devices could cause multiple mass-casualty attacks. The explosives had been hidden in the backyard of one of the suspects in Nazareth.
Police added that an M-16 rifle stolen from a high ranking IDF
officer had been found buried in another backyard where a two-barrel machine gun was also found buried under concrete floor. The suspects from Ghajar apparently engaged in drug smuggling and trafficking.
A police official said that the Lebanese explosives supplier, George Nimer, is a member of Hezbollah and a drug dealer also known as Abu Ali. Nimer worked with Saed Kamhuz, an Israeli citizen charged with various security and drug charges who had escaped to Lebanon.
Demolition blocks exposed by police, Shin Bet (Photo: Israel Police)
Police explained that the Lebanese contacted a person named Shahid Ibrahim of Ghajar who transferred the explosives to another resident who arranged that they be delivered to Kafr Kana, where couriers named Abdullah Zoabi and Arafat Byumi collected them.
Byumi is suspected of transferring the explosives to the head of the Nazareth cell, Abdel Bassat Zoabi. Funds and SIM cards were later transferred to the Hezbollah contact person via Jordan. This was done to arrange a secure line between Abu Ali and Bassat.
|Police uncover terrorist operation in Ghajar|
Police said that another person, yet to be identified, was meant to collect the devices and carry out terrorist attacks. A police official said that more than NIS 400,000 were transferred to Lebanon in exchange for the explosives.
According to the police, the Ghajar smugglers are drug dealers who exploited the village's special geographical location. "Some of the weapons were possibly meant to be used for criminal purposes and are not necessarily connected to terrorist plans."
A total of 13 suspects in their 30s and a 17-year-old were arrested. Ten suspects are still in custody and have been charged with serious security offences.
Abdel Bassat is being charged with aiding an enemy at a time of war, contact with a foreign agent, possession of weapons, conspiracy to commit a crime, and drug trafficking offences.
Northern District Police chief Ronny Atiya said that the operation prevented large-scale terrorist attacks. Police said that Hezbollah is highly motivated with the aim of harming Israeli and Jewish targets and is collecting intelligence in preparation for a large-scale attack.
Ghajar spokesman Najib Khatib said that the arrest caught everyone in the village by surprise. "I think the arrest was out of place," he said. "I find it hard to believe they are involved in security offences, the residents here are quiet and are not looking for trouble."
One of the defendants' relatives said, "We live in a country that tries to humiliate the Arab population at any cost."
He further added, "My relative has nothing to do with this affair. Had we sensed he was involved with anything we would have warned him not to get involved with anything against the state."
He claimed that the family had not been allowed to contact the suspect. "This is a failed, disappointing state and the police are arresting innocent people as a hobby."
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report