Single Hamas Cell Behind Last Week's West Bank Terror Attacks

Hamas terror cell responsible for shootings near the settlements of Ofra and Givat Assaf ■ Senior IDF officer: 'We are investigating what we can do to reveal similar terror cells in the early stages'

People praying near the site of the terror attack at Givat Assaf, December 13, 2018.
Emil Salman

The investigation into the attacks near the West Bank settlements of Ofra and Givat Assaf this past week has revealed that a single terrorist cell is responsible for both incidents.

The investigation revealed that Salah Barghouti was the shooter in the drive-by attack at a bus stop near Ofra on Sunday, while another man drove the getaway car. Barghouti was killed by police while attempting to evade arrest on Wednesday.

It seems that another member of the group arrived on his own to Givat Assaf hours after Barghouthi was killed, killed soldiers Yuval Mor-Yosef and Yossi Cohen, and fled the scene with one of the soldier’s weapons. Another two people were seriously wounded in the Givat Assaf attack.

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In both cases, the shooting was carried out with an automatic weapon. Security forces are checking the possibility that these weapons were also used in other shooting attacks by Palestinians in the Ramallah area in recent months.

The Hamas terrorist cell responsible for the attacks is made up of members of families that are very well known to security services. A senior officer in IDF's Central Command said, in response to criticism: "We always ask ourselves if we could have discovered the cell earlier."

The officer denied the interpretation that this represented an intelligence failure on the part of the IDF and Shin Bet security service. “This is not a failure at the level of having information and not taking action. We are examining if we should have known about the cell earlier, and what we can do to reveal similar terror cells in the early stages. We succeed in preventing hundreds of terrorist attacks a year, some at the last moment before the attack. This is the hard, daily work of the forces,” said the senior officer.

The IDF uses advanced technological means and databases of possible suspects for intelligence on cases like these. The security forces realize that these suspects should have been identified in advance because the Hamas cell has been operating in the West Bank for quite some time.

“We don’t today know whether we have arrested all the members of the cell. We are investigating the ones we have arrested to better understand what happened,” said the officer.