Hamas Cell Operating in Abu Dis Planned Suicide Attacks in Israel, Says Shin Bet

The unit's activity in village outside of East Jerusalem indicates Hamas is stepping up efforts to exploit West Bank escalation to advance terrorism, claims Shin Bet.

Several of the Hamas operatives arrested in Abu Dis, December 23, 2015.
Courtesy Shin Bet

Twenty-five Palestinians from around Abu Dis have been arrested in recent weeks for alleged involvement in a Hamas unit planning terror attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet security service said today. The unit's activity indicates Hamas is stepping up efforts to exploit the escalation in the West Bank to advance terrorism, the Shin Bet claims.

The unit was headed by Ahmad Azzam, 24, of Qalqilyah, who had been recruited by Hamas people in Gaza to set up the local unit, says the Shin Bet. Azzam maintained contact with his handlers in Gaza, says the security organization, and was trained to make explosive belts and bombs. At the behest of his handlers, Azzam allegedly recruited others studying with him in Abu Dis to help execute terror attacks.

According to the Shin Bet, some of the unit's members are Israeli citizens studying at the university: One is a Bedouin resident of Hura and a second lives in Jerusalem's Old City. They were recruited because of their ability to wander freely in Israel, collecting information on sites for the unit to operate, or to carry out attacks themselves. 

Hazam Sandooka, 22, a resident of Jerusalem's Old City, was tapped to buy materials and explosives and, allegedly, to smuggle them and terrorists into Israel proper (within the Green Line). He was arrested with the other unit members. Fahdi Abu Kia'an, 19, resident of Hura, admitted under questioning that he had agreed to Azzam's idea of committing a terror attack in Israel using a bomb belt or car bomb, says the Shin Bet. 

In questioning, Abu Kia'an and Sandooka said they support ISIS, and are also active in local Salafi organizations, the Shin Bet claims.

In recent days the Shin Bet also located the lab used to make the explosives, in an apartment Azzam rented in Abu Dis. Tests of the equipment and materials found in the apartment show preparations were being made to manufacture a "significant quantity of different types of explosives." Some of the materials had been bought in Israel and some in Ramallah.Even the store where Azzam and the others bought the materials was found, and equipment and raw materials were confiscated. 

Azzam had also brought in Isa Shuka, 19, of Bethlehem, to help organize a suicide mission and help in the transfer of money from the Gaza Strip, charges the Shin Bet. Shuka recruited two more Palestinians to actually carry out the suicide job. 

"This affair exposes and stresses anew the involvement of the military arm of Hamas in Gaza, which consistently acts to direct mass murder attacks in Israeli territory and in Judea and Samaria," the Shin Bet said  in a statement. "Thwarting the infrastructure at this time precluded the Hamas' prospect of carrying out mass murder attacks and terrorism in Judea, Samaria and in Israel at this time, which could have led to many casualties and caused grave escalation in the security situation."