Shin Bet Arrests Two West Bank Terror Cells Planning to Abduct Israelis

Shin Bet recently uncovered a Hamas squad in Hebron planning to kidnap Israelis from the Kiryat Arba settlement.

Israel's security forces have arrested operatives of a Hamas terrorist cell in the city of Hebron, suspected of planning to abduct Israelis in the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The cell members were arrested in the past few weeks, but a gag order on the case was lifted only on Wednesday.

The Israel Defense Force and Shin Bet recently uncovered a number of terrorist cells in the Hebron area. One of the cells, led by Ma'ataz Qawasmeh, was preparing to abduct Israelis in Kiryat Arba.

Qawasmah, a Hamas operative, served time in Israeli prison for his involvement in the Islamic organization. His brother was exiled to Gaza, as part of the prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas that included the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Qawasmah and two other operatives confessed to using improvised explosive charges near the fence surrounding Kiryat Arba, in order to examine the army's response. The squad members planned to penetrate the settlement and try and abduct an Israeli settler, or if unsuccessful, kill him.

The three were indicted two weeks ago in the Judea Military Court on several charges, including intentional attempted killing, the manufacture and tossing of a flammable object, planting explosives and membership in an illegal organization.

On Wednesday, it was also made public that the IDF and Shin Bet uncovered another terrorist cell operating in the village of Yata, near Hebron in the West Bank. The cell used mobile phones to initiate explosive devices.

Two members of the squad were arrested following a failed bomb attack that took place in April 19. The two are 26 year-old residents of Yata, Ta'ar Daud, who confessed to manufacturing and placing the explosives, and Mohand Mahamra, considered to be a member of Fatah who also confessed to his actions.

Daud and Mahamra confessed that they carried out another bomb attack in 2007 and that they manufactured of explosive devices. The two were indicted earlier this week in the Judea Military Court on charges including the planting of a bomb, manufacturing explosives and weapons possession.

Recently, it was made public that two months ago Israel's security forces arrested a number of Palestinians suspected of attempting to abduct Israelis in the West Bank. According to the Shin Bet, the squad had nine operatives living in the area of Ramallah. Heading the cell was 22-year-old Muhammad Ramdan, a resident of the West Bank town of al-Bireh. Ramdan and another several squad members were indicted two weeks ago.

The indictment said that the squad members attempted to abduct Israelis on three different occasions, driving a rental car and equipped with an electric taser, tear gas, clubs and a replica gun. In all three tries, according to the indictment, squad members drove to the Binyamin area of the West Bank in an attempt to stun Israeli drivers and hide them in a cave or a safe house.

The Shin Bet noted that the squad was planning to film the kidnapping and upload the video to the internet in order to pressure Israeli authorities to negotiate for the release of the abductees.

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IDF soldier in Hebron April 3, 2012 (AP)