Israel has arrested 34 Palestinians on suspicion of helping Hamas plan shooting, bombing and kidnapping attacks on Israelis, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday, adding that targets included Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem and the city’s light rail system.
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One goal was to provoke a severe response by Israel that would lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, the Shin Bet said in a statement, adding that these forces were responsible for a bombing attack in late August in which no one was injured.
The 34 men were arrested in September, including one resident of Jordan. The Palestinians were directed from Hamas headquarters in Turkey, led by Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas operative based in that country, the Shin Bet said.
The arrested Palestinians told the Shin Bet they had been recruited by Hamas in Jordan, where most of them were students. They received training in Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Gaza, which they reached through smuggling tunnels.
“Terror attacks in [the West Bank], which would also serve Hamas by keeping the spotlight off the Strip, were intended ... to drag Israel into a severe response and bring about the collapse of the Palestinian Authority,” the Shin Bet said.
According to the agency, “Without a doubt, thwarting the [military] infrastructure ... prevented the possibility for Hamas to carry out additional terror attacks in Judea and Samaria” — the West Bank. Car-bomb attacks were among the bombings being planned.
The bombing in late August took place in the northern West Bank. The homemade explosives were detonated by timers; a second device was set to go off and kill the first responders to the earlier blast.
In Turkey, the Palestinians were trained to carry out shooting attacks and bombings in the West Bank, and to enter settlements and kidnap Israelis. Kidnappings were also planned for abroad, though it is not clear how advanced the planning was, the Shin Bet said.
One of the men arrested, Mahmoud Malham from the town of Anabta in the West Bank, confessed that he had rented an apartment in Ramallah, where he hid weapons and material for making explosives. He told the Shin Bet where he had hidden an M-16 rifle and ammunition, which has been found.
Abdallah Zitawi, a 25-year-old from Jordan, confessed that he had received military training in Gaza in 2012 and 2013. At the beginning of this year, he was instructed by Hamas headquarters in Jordan to enter the West Bank and put down roots there in order to be available for attacks, the Shin Bet said.