Israel’s Shin Bet security service announced this week that a number of Hamas members, including two suspected of planning to carry out a shooting and bomb attack, have been arrested for planning terrorist activities in the West Bank.
Muhammad Aazi, a 20-year-old Hamas operative from a village near Nablus in the West Bank, and Noor Aldin Ghaith, a 22-year-old from Hebron were arrested for planning shooting attacks against Israeli civilian and military vehicles. The pair had intended to place nails on the road to force cars to stop, enabling them to open fire more easily, according to Shin Bet.
Following his arrest, Aazi handed over weapons intended to be used for the attack. The Hamas cell had also built improvised explosive devices, and had planned to plant an explosive canister on a propane tank at the entrance to a village, with the intent to detonate it on a military vehicle.
A spokesperson from Shin Bet stated: “The Shin Bet together with the IDF will continue to work with determination to thwart and foil terrorist activities”.
The security agency also detained alleged members of a Hamas cell from Biddu, northeast of Jerusalem, who are suspected of carrying out various attacks. These include planting bombs and throwing Molotov cocktails at soldiers, near the Jerusalem suburbs of Har Adar and Ma’ale Hahamisha in 2015. Cell members were also found to have intended to perpetrate more shootings.
Last week, Israel’s Security Forces arrested numerous high-ranking Hamas members, including three members of Palestinian Parliament.
The arrests follow a number increasing efforts by Israeli and Palestinian security forces to limit the influence of Hamas in the West Bank.
In February 2017, security services detained a number of students from Birzeit University near Ramallah, who were members of the Hamas-affiliated Kutla Islamiyah student union. The students were detained for their role in rallies and recruitment in an attempt to strengthen the terrorist organisation’s grip on the university. Birzeit University is known as a Hamas stronghold, with the terrorist group winning the union’s student elections two years in a row.
In January, Israel arrested 13 Hamas members operating in the Binyamin region in the West Bank for attempting to establish a terrorist infrastructure to undermine the Palestinian Authority. In the same month, Shin Bet exposed a propaganda effort by Hamas to obtain local Palestinian support through social outreach and financial help.
Shin Bet stated: “The discovery of this infrastructure teaches us about the ongoing strategic intentions of Hamas to operate and set itself up in the field, as it tries to undermine the local authority. And this is done alongside its attempts to carry out vicious terror attacks”.