Terrorist Hamas cell uncovered in the West Bank: plotted suicide bombings and attacks in Israel
Two Israelis were killed and one other seriously wounded in a stabbing at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday afternoon.
Two Palestinian men attacked two Israeli civilians at the Jaffa Gate, which is the Western entrance to the Old City, adjacent to the city’s modern commercial centre, close to the Arab Shuk (market), a popular site for tourists.
Two female Border Police officers who were on duty quickly arrived at the scene and opened fire, neutralising the two assailants. One died at the scene and the other later succumbed to his wounds. They were named as 20-year-old Anaan Hamad and 19-year-old Issa Asaf, both from Kalandiya just north of Jerusalem. Asaf served time in an Israeli prison this year for terror offences, while Hamad was arrested in 2010 while brandishing a knife at a check point.
Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Asi Aharoni praised the swift actions of the Border Police officers, saying “They understood immediately that an attack was occurring and they bravely ran to the site… and prevented more innocent people from getting hurt.”
The three injured Israelis were taken to hospitals in Jerusalem. 45-year-old Rabbi Reuven Biermacher sustained fatal stab wounds, while 46-year-old Ofer Ben-Ari died having thought to have suffered gunshot wounds, most likely in the crossfire from one of the Border Police officers. Another person remains seriously injured.
On Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed and injured two security guards at the industrial area near the West Bank settlement of Ariel. One of the victims was severely injured. The assailant was shot and died at the scene. Shortly thereafter, a Palestinian was shot and killed after he attempted to stab IDF soldiers with a screwdriver at a checkpoint in the Hebron area. No troops were injured in this incident.
The wave of attacks has seen at least 23 Israelis killed by Palestinians since the start of October. Most have been the result of knife and vehicle attacks.
Meanwhile the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency announced that it had disrupted a large-scale Hamas terrorist cell that was based in the Abu Dis area of the West Bank, near Jerusalem, and which plotted bombings and suicide bombing attacks in Israel.
Security forces, including the IDF and Israel Police, arrested 25 Hamas operatives, most of them students at the Al Quds University campus in Abu Dis.
During questioning, it emerged that the cell was led by a 24-year-old Palestinian from the Kalkiya area, 24-year-old Ahmed Azam, the Shin Bet said. Azam himself was recruited by Hamas in Gaza “to set up a military infrastructure that would carry out bombing attacks against Israeli targets,” the intelligence agency stated.
Azam “was in continuous contact with his operators in the Gaza Strip, who trained him to be an explosives expert for the purpose of manufacturing bomb vests and explosive devices,” the Shin Bet said.
“In accordance with instructions passed on to Azam, he recruited a number of additional operatives studying with him at the Abu Dis University, in order to purchase material to produce explosives, rent apartments, recruit suicide bombers, and get them to infiltrate Israel,” it added.
In recent days, Shin Bet investigators uncovered an explosives lab in an apartment rented by Azam in Abu Dis. “An examination of the lab found that it was ready to manufacture explosives of different types, in significant quantities,” the Shin Bet said.
Some of the bomb-making materials were purchased in stores in Israel and Ramallah. Raw materials that are banned for sale were seized and additional suspects involved in their sale were arrested in the course of the investigation.