Israel Charges Former Palestinian Militant Leader With Carrying Out Terror Attacks

Former Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade leader Zakaria Zubeidi and lawyer Tarek Barghout carried out two shootings and planned another, Israel's Shin Bet security service says

Zakaria Zubeidi at the Jenin Freedom Theater, December 29, 2011.
Daniel Bar-On

Israel’s military prosecution has charged the former leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades in Jenin, Zakaria Zubeidi, and East Jerusalem lawyer Tarek Barghout, with carrying out two shooting attacks in the West Bank.

Zubeidi and Barghout were arrested in February after preparing to carry out another attack, the Shin Bet security service said. Zubeidi has since been incarcerated in Ofer Prison, and Barghout in Rimon.

The Shin Bet said that in questioning the suspects, they learned that in November 2018 and January 2019, the two fired at a bus traveling near Beit El, but did not cause any injuries. They scouted the area ahead of the attack, observed the targets and collected information. They used a car allocated to Zubeidi by the Palestinian Authority for his work as a senior official in the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

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In December 2018, the two fired at another bus near the settlement of Psagot, but missed because of inclement weather. They planned to carry out another attack in February 2019, firing at another Egged bus going to Psagot, but were arrested before they could follow through.

According to the Shin Bet, Barghout admits that in November 2016, they shot at a police car at the Hazeitim checkpoint near Jerusalem, causing damage. Israeli security forces found the M-16 assault rifle and magazines used in the attack.

Barghout reached a plea deal, according to which he will serve 10 to 13 years in prison in exchange for a confession. According to a security source, Barghout said during questioning that he was "fed up with the method of defeating the occupation through the courts."

A source in the Shin Bet called it a serious affair, involving a high-ranking figure and an Israeli lawyer working with the Palestinian Prisoners Society "who carried out serious terror attacks using a Palestinian Authority car."

Zubeidi lives in the Jenin refugee camp. His arrest in February surprised the residents of Jenin, who said that in recent years he had been focusing on political activity as a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, and held a senior position in the Palestinian Prisoners Society. Zubeidi's position was parallel to that of the general manager within the group, sources from the society told Haaretz.

Barghout, an Israeli citizen, resides in Ramallah and also worked with the Palestinian Prisoners Society. As a lawyer, he represented a number of security prisoners, including the Palestinian teenager who stabbed Ari Fuld to death at the Gush Etzion junction in September. He also represented the 13-year-old who participated in the knife attack in Pisgat Ze'ev, and the Palestinian who shot Eliav Gelman to death at the Gush Etzion junction in 2016.

He was arrested in the past for online incitement based on posts he uploaded to his Facebook account. His wife Amal was arrested in March, a move that Palestinian and Israeli lawyers said was intended to put pressure on her husband.