Israel's Shin Bet security service said Wednesday that it had uncovered Iranian intelligence operating in the West Bank. Three Palestinians were arrested, among them the main suspect, a 29-year-old computer engineering student named Mohammed Maharmeh from the Hebron area.
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According to the Shin Bet, Maharmeh was recruited into Iranian intelligence by a relative, Bahar Maharmeh, who resides in South Africa. The Shin Bet said that "Iranian intelligence used South Africa as a major arena for locating, recruiting and operating agents against Israel."
The Shin Bet added that Mohammed Maharmeh visited South Africa in 2015, when he was recruited by his relative. In addition, Bahar introduced Mohammed several times to Iranian agents, "some of whom came from Tehran to meet him."
The investigation revealed that Mohammed was tasked with various assignments in order to facilitate terror attacks against Israeli targets. The tasks included recruiting a suicide bomber and a cell that would carry out shooting attacks. The Shin Bet also suspects Mohammed was told to open a computer store to serve as an intelligence gathering center. The Iranians offered to train him in explosives and suggested he recruit an Israeli Arab to take photographs inside Israel.
Mohammed Maharmeh recruited two operatives from Hebron – Nur Maharmeh and Diaa Sarahana – both 22-year-old residents of the city. The two agreed to form a terror cell with guidance from Iran. In return for recruiting the two, Mohammed Maharmeh received $8,000 from Iran.
In recent days Mohammed Maharmeh was charged with contact with a hostile organization, receiving enemy funds and illegal gathering. Nur Maharmeh was charged with conspiring to join an illegal gathering, and Diaa Sarahana was charged with attempting to join an illegal gathering.
"The Shin Bet and the IDF exposed and thwarted in the West Bank a terror network operated under the auspices of Iranian intelligence," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
"This is not the first time. They try in different ways there and in other places to target the State of Israel. I'm glad that the Shin Bet and our security services are successful in thwarting [these attempts]," Netanyahu continued.
"I wish to stress to you that Iran is employing terrorism against Israel, not just by assisting terror organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but also through attempts to organize terror attacks inside Israeli territory."