Israeli forces foil planned abduction attack by West Bank Hamas cell

Israel security services revealed on Wednesday the foiling of a Hamas abduction plan set to be carried out in the West Bank during the Hanukkah holiday this week.

An investigation by the Shin Bet internal security agency revealed that three members of an alleged Hamas cell operating from the West Bank intended to dress up as Jewish settlers and kidnap a soldier or a settler from one of the bus stations in the central junctions near Nablus in the northern West Bank, according to a statement by Israel Security Authorities (ISA).

The ringleader of the cell was identified as Mu’ad Ashtiyeh, 26, from the village of Tell, near Nablus. He recruited cousins Muhammad Ramadan, and Ahmad Ramadan, both 19 and also residents of Tell, to participate in the plot.

An ISA investigation uncovered that the men undertook “meticulous intelligence gathering” inquiring about possible places in the Nablus area to hide the abductee in order to conduct negotiations for an exchange of Palestinian prisoners.

Ashtiyeh had already purchased a pistol, pepper spray, and a taser in preparation for the attack, the Shin Bet said, adding that “the cell planned to buy more weapons in order to carry out the terror attack.”

ISAA pistol purchased by the suspects ISA

The men were said to be in contact with a Hamas military activist and member of Hamas headquarters in the Gaza Strip, who is currently seeking to launch military activity and money routes from the coastal enclave to the West Bank.

The ISA said that the findings of the investigation had been passed along to state prosecutors for consideration.

“The General Security Service will continue to act with determination to thwart terrorist cells and terror attacks in advance with an emphasis on the Hamas terrorist organization which is constantly working to carry out serious terrorist attacks on Israel,” the ISA statement said.

Dozens arrested

The revelation of the plot followed the arrest of 32 Palestinians with suspected ties to terrorist activity, including a senior Hamas leader, in overnight raids across the West Bank on Tuesday.

Hamas spiritual leader and founder, Sheikh Hassan Yousef, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet said, for “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank.”

Yousef, who has been arrested a number of times previously, was only recently released from detention. The Shin Bet stated at the time that their reasoning for his discharge was because “it appears…no longer necessary.”

Since US President Donald Trump’s announcement last week to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, tensions across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have mounted leading to a number of clashes at flash points throughout the Palestinian territories.

ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)A Palestinian protester throws stones towards Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 11, 2017, as protests continue in the Middle East and elsewhere over US President Donald Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ABBAS MOMANI (AFP)

The Gaza-based Hamas Islamist movement has spearheaded calls for Palestinians to “stand up in the face of this brutal decision” that is a “flagrant violation of international law”, urging the people to wage a new ‘intifada’ or uprising.

Ismail Haniya, the current leader of the Hamas group, has thrown his weight behind these calls and has rallied Palestinians to “go out in anger” and defend the holy city.

Clashes across the West Bank and Gaza Strip mounted last week amid the ‘Day of Rage’ protests that witnessed thousands of Palestinians take to the streets to oppose the declaration that has largely been branded by many in solidarity around the world as jeopardizing the peace process.

Skirmishes between Israeli forces and Palestinians protesters in Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah were characterized by tire burning, firebombing and rock throwing.

Along the Gaza-strip border, rocket fire has intensified over the past week which has triggered repeated Israeli retaliation strikes, two members of Hamas’s military wing were killed on Saturday bringing the death toll following Trump’s announcement to a total of 4.

On Sunday, the IDF revealed that it has destroyed a Hamas-operated tunnel burrowed from the central Gaza Strip into Israeli territory which was the second such operation in recent weeks.

Originally posted at i24News.

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