Israel announced today that it has dismantled a cell of the Islamist Hamas movement in Jerusalem that was ready to attack Israeli targets, including targeting Religious Zionist Party MP Itamar Ben Gvir.
The investigation, carried out by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Police, revealed that the Hamas cell —a group considered terrorist by Israel, the US and the EU— planned these attacks in early April, when the wave of violence affecting the area in recent months was already brewing.
The suspects also planned to shoot at Israeli targets and public figures such as Ben Gvir; make improvised explosive devices, kidnap soldiers, and even suicide bombings, the Shin Bet and police said in a joint statement.
They further acquired an unmanned aerial vehicle to attack a Jerusalem streetcar train, which was seized during the operation along with other weapons and cash.
According to the Shin Bet, the cell was led by Rashid Rashak, a prominent Hamas militant in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the occupied eastern half of the city, along with Mansur Tzafadi, from Abu Tor, another eastern Jerusalemite neighborhood, both of whom were arrested.
"*" indicates required fields
The cell members planned to hide in Hebron or Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, after carrying out the attacks.
The investigation revealed that Rashak established a network of militants in Jerusalem whose aim was to cause unrest in the east of the city during Ramadan, which this year was in April, “to destabilize the city,” including at the Esplanade of the Mosques, where clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces occurred almost every Friday of the Muslim holy month.
“To this end, militants delivered many Hamas fireworks, flags, and videos to neighborhoods in east Jerusalem for use during the Ramadan riots,” the statement said.
The State Prosecutor in the Jerusalem district is filing serious indictments against the suspect, reported the Shin Bet and the Police, who vowed to continue to take “resolute action to confront those involved in terrorism, especially in Jerusalem, to the full extent of the law.”
During the wave of violence that broke out in the area at the end of March, Israel has suffered six attacks committed by Palestinians or Arab-Israelis, with 18 fatalities; while more than forty Palestinians have been killed in raids by the Israeli Army in the occupied West Bank.