The members of a Hamas cell that planned to assassinate Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during the summer war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip have been arrested and charged in a military court, the Shin Bet security service revealed on Thursday.
The intention of the planned strike was to send a message to Israel that it should end the hostilities in Gaza, according to the Shin Bet.
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Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip although it is formally under Abbas' rule, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
"We have no information about this issue. However, we stress that leaders of the Occupation (Israel) who are responsible for the killing of children and women and for defiling the sacred sites are legitimate targets for the resistance," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
The cell was uncovered and its members arrested over the past few weeks, but details were only released for publication on Thursday.
According to the Shin Bet, the group planned to purchase a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and attack the minister's convoy while he was travelling in his car. It emerged during the Shin Bet's investigation that the members of the cell had gathered intelligence about the minister's movements and his security detail.
The cell's members, all from villages in the Bethlehem area, have been charged in a West Bank military court with conspiracy to cause bodily harm and conspiracy to trade in armaments.
The cell was headed by Ibrahim Zir, 37, a senior Hamas activist from the village of Harmala, near Bethlehem, who previously served time in Israeli jails for membership in Hamas and subversive activity.
Zir started planning the attack on Lieberman during the Gaza war and recruited his brother, Ziad, 35, and another man named Adnan Tsabich, 31.
Also involved, according to the Shin Bet, was a Hamas activist from Bethlehem named Yusuf Alsheich, to whom Zir had turned for assistance in obtaining an RPG.
Hamas has been working hard to rehabilitate its organization in the West Bank following the Israeli crack-down after the kidnapping of three Jewish youths in June.
Following the interrogation of the Bethlehem cell, another, separate Hamas network was uncovered, which was planning other attacks in the Gush Etzion area, the Shin Bet said.