Israeli authorities today announced that they have successfully thwarted a plot by imprisoned Palestinians to establish a terror cell to carry out a kidnapping plot against Israelis in the West Bank. The latest terror plot was exposed in December, but only cleared for publication today.
Muhammad Bel, 24, who has been imprisoned since 2008, recruited two other Palestinian prisoners, Ali Harub and Rajab Salah al Din. Bel was also reportedly in touch with Amr Mustafa Khalil Qassem, a Gaza-based operative in the Holy Warriors Brigades.
Harub, the Shin Bet said, is currently imprisoned for being part of a terror cell, planning attacks, and manufacturing explosives, among other offenses. Rajab Salah al Din, 53, is said to be a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and has been imprisoned since May 2012 for attempted abductions of Israelis.
The Shin Bet did not state whether the cell had yet touched base with any potential operatives in the West Bank.
According to the Shin Bet, the plot directed by the three Palestinian prisoners was linked to a Hamas-affiliated group called the Holy Warriors Brigades (Kataib al Mujahideen). The Palestinian terror group previously separated from Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and has adopted radical Islamist characteristics, the Shin Bet noted.
The Holy Warriors Brigades, which has previously boasted about conducting joint operations with Hamas, is headed by Asad Attiyah Ibrahim Abu Sharia, 36. The Shin Bet declared that “the Holy Warriors Brigades is a Hamas front group in every way.”
The Holy Warriors Brigades seeks to expand its presence in the West Bank in support of “its master” – Hamas, the Shin Bet charged. According to the security agency, Hamas is using groups such as the Holy Warriors Brigades to conduct activity in the West Bank to maintain the façade that it is abiding by the ceasefire agreement reached with Israel in November 2012.
In May 2012, the Shin Bet announced the exposure of another Holy Warriors Brigades terror cell that sought to abduct Israelis.
Over the past year, Hamas terror activities, in particular abduction attempts, have been on the rise in the West Bank. In March, the Shin Bet charged that Hamas’ Interior Minister Fathi Hammad has been at the forefront of the terror group’s efforts to carry out attacks in the West Bank, including kidnappings, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks. More recently, Israeli officials have cited the role of Turkey-based Hamas operative Saleh Aruri. A founder of Hamas’ Izz al Din al Qassam Brigades in the West Bank, Aruri is currently believed to be in charge of coordinating Hamas’ efforts in the area, Haaretz reported on Dec. 21.
For more on Hamas’ recent terror plots, see Threat Matrix reports: