Disaster averted: A special, covert police operation uncovered what has been described as "the match that would have ignited the entire country, inciting the fires of hate between Jews and Arabs."
The case had been under a gag order until Tuesday. According to initial details cleared for publication the police were unable to uncover a plot to set off an explosive device at the Hassan Bek Mosque in Jaffa and make it appear like an extreme right price tag operation. The device was discovered mere hours before it was meant to be set.
The operation, dubbed "Violet Wreath," has been said to unearth a plot "stunning in its scope, sophistication and far-reaching ramifications," police sources said Tuesday.
The police have 11 suspects in custody, including several family members from Jaffa, who were reportedly doing the bidding of a Jaffa attorney, who wished to settle several business disputes with the proverbial bang.
According to police sources, the case dates back to several 2010 arson cases, which caused over a million dollars in damages.
The police believe the suspects targeted the new scientology center in Jaffa and planned to bring the building down via a gas explosion. To that aim, the loaded a truck they had stolen with fuel tanks and gas containers – while dressed as in traditional haredi garb. The move was meant to stir the future investigation towards a Jewish terror attack against the controversial cult.
The controversial scientology center (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Everything was ready – the gas had been pumped through special pipes into the building – and it was only a slight miscalculation in the gas-to-oxygen ratio which prevented a catastrophic blast from turning the building to cinder.
The police were struggling with the case when a lead pointed them to the suspects – members of the Bakher family. The suspects had no criminal records, but surveillance revealed that one of them, A.A, was an explosives expert. He would later become a State witness.
The most nefarious scheme involved a large explosive device meant to assassinate a senior sheikh after Friday prayers at the Hassan Bek Mosque.
The suspects were allegedly planning to use a remote detonator to trigger a car bomb which would have been parked at the entrance. The potential casualties among mosque goes would have numbered in the dozens.
Hassan Bek mosque Tel Aviv-Jaffa (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Witness testimonies reveal that they were planning to hide their tracks by spray painting the words "Price Tag" – a term used for reprisals carried out by far-right activists and settlements – nearby.
Police surveillance discovered that the man who ordered the "hit" on the Scientology center was none other than the Scientologists' very own legal representative in Israel and worldwide, Attorney Gur Finkelstein, who stood to benefited from the future reconstruction work, due to a close connection with the building contractors.
Police said that the suspects – including the Nizar Bakher, the Bakher family patriarch and his son Abdullah, as well as Finkelstein himself – have admitted their involvement. The Tel Aviv District Prosecution is expected to file formal indictments in the case later in the week.
"This is a dangerous group of people whose victims were saved by a miracle," the Tel Aviv Police said. "They prepared explosive devices that could have flattened buildings let alone the consequences of the Mosque plan should it have succeeded. We prevented a huge catastrophe," the police said.
Yoav Zitun, Ahiya Raved and Naama Cohen-Friedman contributed to this report
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