Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, announced the foiling of a plot by a Hamas cell to kidnap and murder Israeli citizens in December, The Times of Israel reported on Thursday.
The cell, which included three Israeli citizens from Jerusalem and three residents of Hebron, was led in part by 36-year-old Hebron resident Maher Qawasmeh, who had previously been jailed for planning terror attacks for Hamas. A second leader was identified as 20-year-old Ziad Abu Hadwan, who lived in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The group met in Hebron multiple times over the past year and acquired two vehicles to carry out their plot. 22-year-old Ammar Rajabe, also of Jerusalem’s Old City, was the intended driver of the car that would be carrying the kidnapped Israelis. The suspects told the Shin Bet that Rajabe was chosen for the job because his Hebrew language skills are “superior.”
The cell planned to abduct one or more Israelis, kill them, and then negotiate to trade the bodies for jailed terrorists. The Shin Bet discovered a hiding place where the group intended to store their victims’ remains.
After security forces detected and arrested those in the cell who have Israeli citizenship, Qawasmeh ordered the remaining members to make explosives to carry out a bombing. That effort was unsuccessful.
In the summer of 2014, three Israeli teens– Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16– were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank in a similar plot.
Last month, the Shin Bet announced that it had uncovered and dismantled a Hamas cell that planned to carry out mass-casualty bombing attacks. According to the Times, in both plots, “many of the members of the group were Israeli citizens, residents of Jerusalem, who were given tasks that made use of their greater freedom of movement, as compared to Palestinians who live in the West Bank.”