Israeli security forces have thwarted a number of attempts by the Hamas military wing in Gaza to organize terrorist cells in the West Bank and to carry out attacks in Israel, the Shin Bet security service said on Wednesday.
In one of its attempts, Hamas trained an explosives expert for more than a year in Gaza so that he would establish a bomb manufacturing lab in the West Bank, the Israeli security agency said in a statement.
Israeli authorities had permitted the suspect to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds for medical treatment. The Hamas operations were uncovered after the Shin Bet carried out a series of arrests in the West Bank of people recruited by Hamas in Gaza.
The alleged explosives expert, Fadi Abu al-Sabah, 35, from the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, is said to have received extensive instruction, including training in explosives, in how to handle questioning at the Erez border crossing into Israel and how to conduct himself under interrogation by the Shin Bet.
Abu al-Sabah was recruited in July 2018 after he was identified by a Hamas member who had heard he was in the process of receiving a permit to enter Israel for medical reasons, the Shin Bet said. Undercover meetings between Hamas representatives and Abu al-Sabah were said to have been held at the home of Musab Hashlamoun.
He is the former head of the Hamas cell in Hebron and had been sentenced to 17 life prison terms for recruiting suicide bombers. He was released as part of the 2011 prison exchange in which the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was brought back to Israel.
Abu al-Sabah allegedly paid a doctor in Gaza to forge medical documents for him that would show that he was unable to receive proper treatment in Gaza, providing grounds for him to receive a humanitarian medical permit to enter Israel. The permit was meant to provide him medical treatment in Hebron, but he reportedly never went to the hospital there and met up instead with people in the city who helped him with his plans. He was arrested two months ago in Taybeh and was charged in the Judea Military Court, the Shin Bet said.
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Another suspect, from the town of Urif in the northern West Bank, was arrested on suspicion of being in contact with a Hamas member in Gaza, Nur al-Din, as part of a plan to carrying out terror attacks, the Shin Bet said. Eleven others were also arrested in the West Bank village of Zawiya, south of Qalqilyah, on suspicion that Al-Din had instructed them to carry out suicide bombings and shooting attacks in Israel.
Al-Din is also reportedly behind a cell of four young men from the town of Arraba in the West Bank. The Shin Bet investigation found that one of the four had agreed to carry out a suicide attack and also attempted to recruit others.