Israel announced Thursday that it had discovered and prevented multiple plans by Islamist group Hamas to launch a series of terrorist attacks against Israelis in several locations, including Jerusalem’s largest soccer stadium, the city’s light rail, the West Bank, and areas overseas.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service arrested about 30 members of Hamas in September raids, which also yielded rifles, ammunition, and bomb-making materials.
Hamas officials in Turkey planned the attacks slated for Israeli targets, the Shin Bet added in a statement.
Reuters reports that a Hamas spokesman in Gaza denied the story, saying, “We have no information about these Israeli claims. … It is clear Israel wanted to create a new story to divert the world’s attention away from the escalation in Jerusalem.”
The spokesman was referring to a surge in terror attacks in and around Jerusalem in recent weeks. Eleven Israelis have been killed, including four rabbis and a policeman who were hacked, stabbed, and shot by Palestinians in a gruesome Jerusalem synagogue attack last week.
The Shin Bet said that the Hamas cells received military training in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, and Gaza, and were given missions. Many were recruited in Jordan and had highly developed skills in different fields.
The Shin Bet said that the plot, like an earlier plot uncovered in August, indicates high motivation by Hamas to reconstruct its West Bank military presence and to carry out attacks against Israelis. Additional motivation may have been to remove the spotlight from Gaza and drag Israel into a harsh response in the West Bank, which could cause the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. Toppling the rival Palestinian Authority is one of Hamas’s goals.
The Times of Israel reports that Israeli officials accused Turkey and Qatar, where Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal resides, of allowing Hamas to operate freely in their countries to plot attacks against Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heaped praise on the Shin Bet and the IDF for their roles in foiling the attack, and he hinted that this was only one of many covert operations “against terrorists, against Hamas, which poses a threat to the existence of the nation state of the Jews and is in essence a threat to the existence of Jews in general.”
He added that Israel acts “day and night to protect the security of Israeli citizens, and the people who are engaged in this work are deserving all praise and support.”