The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel Security Agency (Shabak or Shin Bet) today announced the arrest of “approximately 20 terrorists affiliated with Hamas.”
According to a report on the IDF blog, those arrested were trying “to establish a local headquarters in Hebron” and were “planning to kidnap an IDF soldier.” The cell intended to use an Israeli citizen as the driver in the kidnapping operation, the report noted.
The cell was “assisted by Hamas operatives abroad, who provided them with guidance and funding,” Israeli authorities said. Husam Badran, who was released in October 2011 in the first part of the exchange for Gilad Shalit, was said to be the “primary contact person abroad” for the cell. Badran, who had been serving a 17-year sentence, was exiled to Qatar as part of the Shalit deal.
In 2002, the IDF said that Badran had “led and directed the execution of Hamas military operations, received and delivered funds used for the making of explosive devices for terror attacks, and sent suicide bombers to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets in Israel and the territories.” Among the numerous terrorist attacks attributed to Badran are the 2001 Tel-Aviv nightclub bombing that killed 21 people, and the 2002 suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya that killed 30.
Of the 20 suspects arrested, Israeli authorities provided information on three of the most prominent:
- Nabil Taleb Mahmad Mahmmud Ouauda, 32, resident of Dura, previously jailed for involvement in terror activity and assisting suspects. Ouauda was the head of the terror cell.
- Mahmud Mahmad Mahmud Abu-Varda, 34, resident of Fawwar, was previously jailed for involvement in terror activity. He had been transferring weaponry to other operatives.
- Tareq Aziz Issa Graib, 35, resident of Tarqumia, was a contact for operatives abroad.
Kidnapping operations are a grave concern for Israeli authorities. According to the Shin Bet, one-third of the approximately 100 “significant attacks” it thwarted in 2012 were kidnapping attempts. For example, in late December 2012, Israeli authorities announced the arrest of a Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) cell that was planning to carry out a kidnapping operation in the hopes of bargaining for the release of PFLP leader Ahmed Sa’adat.
The involvement of terrorists released in the Shalit deal in plotting kidnapping operations is not a new development. In April 2012, Israeli authorities announced that Omar Abu Sanina, who was exiled to the Gaza Strip in the Shalit deal, had tried to send “detailed instructions for how to kidnap an Israeli soldier” to Hamas terrorists in the West Bank.