A joint Shin Beit and IDF operation has led to the apprehension of members of an Islamic Jihad cell operating in the Bet Lechem area. Cell members planned to kill Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman with a roadside bomb as well as carry out attacks against Gush Etzion area residents. Six cell members were arrested as a result of the Shin Bet (ISA) investigation.
The leaders of the cell are reported to be:
Awad Mahmoud’ Awad al-‘Asakra, 25, a resident of Rafida/Bet Lechem and a member of Islamic Jihad who was an administrative detainee between 2015 and 2017 for having planned a terrorist attack.
Muhammad ‘Ali Ibrahim’ Askara, 32, a resident of Rafida, also a member of the Islamic Jihad, is a former prisoner twice for activities within the Islamic Jihad and his involvement in preparing a bomb and planning an attack against IDF forces.
In the course of the investigation of the members of the cell by the ISA, it became clear that they had acted to purchase explosives for the manufacture of an IED and even contacted terrorist organizations in Gaza in order to receive funding for the attack. When the cell members failed to purchase material for the manufacture of the bomb, they decided to produce a “dummy” bomb in order to receive funding and recognition for their activities and carry out additional attacks. This explosive was apprehended over during their arrest.
One is reminded that a Hamas cell was arrested in 2014 headed by Ibrahim Salim Mahmud Zir, a senior Bet Lechem Hamas official, who tried to buy a RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade). The investigation also revealed that the motive for the activity of one of the members of the cell, similar to other young men in the Bet Lechem area, was the desire to be arrested for planning to target Minister Liberman. This cell was hopeful to succeed in its mission after the Hamas cell in 2014 failed.
Efforts to date have failed and they now decided a roadside bomb on the route taken by the minister. Questioning of the suspects further revealed their shock due to the heavy security provided to the senior minister.
Indictments against the suspects are being were handed down on Sunday, 3 Adar, in the Yehuda Military Court.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem/Photo Credit: ISA Spokesman unit)