Gaza Resident Indicted for Planning Bus Attack Inside Israel

The suspect was arrested after collecting materials to assemble a bomb in Israel ■ Security services rescind entry permits for 200 Gazans with family connections to suspect in response

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Islamic Jihad members in Gaza in October.
Islamic Jihad members in Gaza in October.Credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

A Gaza resident was indicted on Thursday for planning a bus attack inside Israel. Fathi Zakut, a 31-year-old from Rafah, was arrested last month on suspicion of gathering the equipment needed to build an explosive device under the direction of an Islamic Jihad operative. Zakut had a permit to legally enter Israel.

The State Prosecutors Office charged Zakut with offenses against the state's security, including membership in a terrorist organization, contact with a foreign agent, illegal residence and possession of a weapon. The indictment filed in the Be’er Sheva District Court alleges that the defendant was talked into acting by an Islamic Jihad member, who taught him how to assemble an explosive device.

According to the indictment, in one of their meetings, Zakut proposed planting the bomb on a bus he regularly took when he was in Israel. The prosecutors also allege that during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Zakut used his brother’s home to store Islamic Jihad bombs and that in 2016 he helped the organization move materials into a tunnel.

Zakut had a permit to enter Israel that didn’t include the right to work. The Shin Bin security service said that after his arrest, entry permits were rescinded for about 200 Gaza residents who have family connections to the suspect.

The Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel in October.Credit: אליהו הרשקוביץ

“Efforts by terror organizations to take advantage of workers employed in Israel to stage attacks jeopardize the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Gaza Strip residents,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz. He added that “if we begin seeing a trend of recruiting Gaza workers to stage attacks, Israel will have to weigh steps in regard to workers leaving Gaza as well as other civilian relief measures.”

The indictment comes a day after twin attacks at bus stops in Jerusalem that killed 16-year-old Aryeh Shechopek and injured 22 others. The two bombings occurred at a bus stop at the city’s entrance.

Israeli Police believes that the first bombing was planned to take place at a busy time and that the second was planned to go off after ambulances arrived at the scene. A preliminary investigation found that the explosive device had been planted the night before and was detonated remotely using a cellphone.

Reuters contributed to the reporting in this story.

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