The suspected mastermind behind last month’s deadly West Bank terror attack that killed one Israeli and wounded three others near the Schvut Rachel settlement was among 1,027 Palestinian inmates freed by Israel in exchange for the release from Gaza of the captured Israel Defence Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
On Sunday, the Shin Bet announced it had detained four members of a seven-member Hamas cell who had opened fire on a car during last month’s attack. One of the alleged cell members, Ahmad Najjar, a Hamas member who was said to have orchestrated and funded the shooting attack from Jordan, has yet to be apprehended, the security service said. Before being released in the Shalit prisoner exchange, Najjar spent eight years in an Israeli prison for his involvement in previous terror attacks that killed three Israelis.
Mahmoud Kawasame, one of Hamas operatives who abducted and killed the Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach in June 2014, had also been released by Israel. Kawasame was originally imprisoned for his involvement in a 2004 suicide bus bombing in Beersheba that killed 16 Israelis.
In April 2014, a few hours before the Passover Seder, Israeli civilian Baruch Mizrachi was shot dead in a roadside attack near Hebron. The 48-year-old Israel Police superintendent was killed by Ziad Awwad, a Hamas operative released in the prisoner swap.
Osama As’ad, a 29-year-old arms dealer from the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandia, who was imprisoned by Israel for selling weapons used in attacks and released under the Shalit deal, was recently rearrested for the lethal West Bank shooting of Israeli civilian Danny Gonen in June.
Israeli media this week reported that Hamas’s terror network in the West Bank is largely operated by former security prisoners based in Gaza.
Under the terms of the 2011 swap, the majority of prisoners hailing from the West Bank were deported to Gaza, where they have been able to leverage their connections in the West Bank to facilitate attacks.
Prisoners released to the West Bank have also engaged in violent activity against Israelis, and the Palestinian Authority and Israeli security forces have rearrested dozens of them for rioting, hurling Molotov cocktails and funding terrorism.