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The Shin Bet discovered the cell, including three of its key members, in October. The men, who were arrested in Nablus, planned to exchange their captive for Palestinian prisoners. Shin Bet sources assess that the attack was imminent.
The plan, the Shin Bet discovered, was to abduct an Israeli soldier or settler from a bus station at a major intersection in the West Bank in the vicinity of Nablus. To prepare, the cell’s members disguised themselves as settlers and observed activity at bus stations as well as the timing of bus routes and army patrols. The cell’s leader also looked into possible places to hide their abductee in the area of Nablus.
The men arrested include the cell’s leader Mu’ad Ashtia, 26, who is suspected of planning a terror attack, procuring arms, and recruiting others to the team. He has served time in prison for belonging and being active in Hamas. Other detainees include Mahmad Ramadan and Ahmed Ramadan, 19, who are also Hamas members and are suspected of being recruited by Ashtia. While the Shin Bet had known of them, they have no prison record.
The cell had received directives for the attack from Hamas chiefs in the Gaza Strip. They were in touch with Omar Atzida, a member of the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which provides guidance and financing for attacks against Israelis.
The Shin Ben also uncovered weapons the cell planned to use in the planned abduction, including a pistol, a shocker and gas spray. They had plans to buy more weapons ahead of the attack.