Six members of a Hamas cell in Jerusalem and Hebron planning to kidnap and murder an Israeli civilian in order to exchange the body for Palestinian prisoners have been arrested, the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police announced.
“This case reconfirms that Hamas still aspires to carry out serious terror attacks, even now, in order to further egg on the recent wave of terror into a violent intifada,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
Indictments were filed in a Jerusalem court against three men from Jerusalem and three from Hebron. One was named as 20-year-old Ziad Abu Hadoan from Jerusalem’s Old City, who was released from an Israeli prison in October for violence on the Temple Mount. However, the cell’s head was named as 36-year-old Maher Kawasme, from Hebron, who has previously been convicted for plotting Hamas terror activities.
The investigation revealed that the cell had met for around a year in Hebron, planning various attacks. Kawasme apparently instructed other members how to make explosives, while weapons were obtained with the intention of carrying out a shooting in Jerusalem.
However, the cell decided to plan and carry out the kidnap and murder of an Israeli civilian and had already designated a cave near Hebron in which to hide the body. In other details of the planned operation, 22-year-old Jerusalem resident Amar Rajabi was designated to drive the car in which the victim would be abducted, due to his fluency in Hebrew. Another member of the cell was tasked with waiting nearby to push the victim’s car from the road.
The case demonstrates the threat posed by Hamas terror cells in the West Bank seeking out the assistance of Jerusalem’s Arab residents, for both their knowledge of Hebrew and the free movement granted to them as citizens of Israel, the Shin Bet said.
The goal of the cell was to use the kidnapped Israeli’s body as a bargaining chip in order to release Palestinian prisoners. In 2011, more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were freed from Israeli prisons in return for the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. In 2008, Israel released five Hezbollah prisoners in return for the bodies of two kidnapped IDF reservists.
Last month, the Shin Bet announced it has arrested at least 25 members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank, actively planning suicide and car bombings inside Israel. At least two other Hamas cells have been apprehended during the past year.
Three young Israelis, Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gil-ad Shaar, 16, were abducted last summer by a Hamas cell from a bus stop near the West Bank settlement of Alon Shvut, just south of Jerusalem, and killed.