Shin Bet Uncovers West Bank Hamas Cell That Planned Attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem

Security service says it confiscated several explosives, including a 10-kilogram bomb that can be activated by cell phone

Explosives seized in the operation against the West Bank Hamas unit
Israel Army Spokesperson

The Shin Bet security service announced Sunday that it had uncovered a ring of Hamas operatives in Nablus that had been working since October to plan terror attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere.

The network was “exceptional in its scope and activities,” the announcement said, adding that the cell had 20 people in it, including people with experience in producing explosives and bombs.

The network was headed by Me’atzam Mahmud Salam, 35, and Faras Kamal Zbeidi, 33, both Nablus residents. The Shin Bet alleges they were responsible for planning attacks in various Israeli cities, recruiting operatives and manufacturing bombs.

Explosives seized in the operation against the West Bank Hamas unit
דובר צה"ל

“Hamas is trying to harm us both from Gaza and from Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, in response to the announcement. “That’s why we will continue to maintain security control over all the territory west of the Jordan [River].”

The Shin Bet said the cell was planning a bombing in Tel Aviv, a suicide attack and a bombing in Jerusalem, a bombing in the settlement of Itamar and shooting attacks elsewhere in the West Bank. The service said it had confiscated several explosive devices, including one 10-kilogram bomb that could be activated by cell phone, 15 kilograms of explosives and other materials to prepare explosives and weapons.

Indictments were filed in military court Sunday against two of the suspects and they were ordered detained until the end of legal proceedings. Other indictments will be filed in the coming days.

“Hamas is trying to harm us both from Gaza and from Judea and Samaria,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the announcement. “That’s why we will continue to maintain security control over all the territory west of the Jordan [River].”

The military prosecution on Friday issued an indictment against Salem, accusing him of deliberately attempting to cause death, making contact with the enemy and other crimes. According to the indictment, a year before his arrest, Salem spoke by phone with a member of Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate, in Syria. The two kept in touch using the Telegram app. During their correspondence, the Syrian activist suggested that Salem act against Israeli targets using explosives in exchange for $100,000. The Syrian operative told him what kinds of chemicals were needed to make the bombs.

Salem allegedly asked another man in Nablus to help him put the bombs together. The two were able to get all the materials they needed from a local pharmacy. Despite their efforts, though, the two could not make a bomb, and so they asked help from a third man in Nablus. But they still couldn’t successfully create a bomb, so they asked a computer expert to download for them exactly what materials they needed and in what quantities.

The indictment said that while they were trying to make the bomb, the accused, Salem, was asked to make contact with a Jerusalemite named Abu Bra’a, who was meant to transport the bomb into Israel after it was prepared. If the attack was carried out, the cell members were promised two M-16 rifles. 

In early 2018, cell members learned that the would-be suicide bomber meant to carry out the attack in Jerusalem had changed his mind and was unwilling to do it. The cell members thus altered the bomb’s firing mechanism so it could be set off by remote control. The plan was to build two bombs – one that would just make noise, and a second, powerful bomb to be activated against the rescue personnel who would respond to the first one.

The bomb was ready in April and was transported to the cell member who was meant to carry out the attack. The cell members were arrested by security forces after the means for the attacks were already on their way to those meant to carry out at least some of them.