TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised security forces for raiding a massive Hamas terror cell in the West Bank in which several lethal attacks including suicide bombings had been planned against Israel, and said that such operations were further proof that Israel must maintain security control of all areas west of the Jordan River.
“The Shin Bet security service, the IDF and the Israel Police have thwarted a Hamas terrorist cell that sought to carry out horrific attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, from Nablus in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said in a video released on social media, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
“Hamas is trying to attack us from both Gaza, and Judea and Samaria. This is why we will continue to maintain security control of all areas west of the Jordan River.”
The Shin Bet security service revealed Sunday that the cell was “extraordinary in its size and level of activity” and had planned a number of terror attacks across the country.
“In recent months, the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police uncovered a Hamas terror cell, extraordinary in its size and level of activity, which operated in the Nablus area,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
“During the suspects’ interrogations by the Shin Bet, it was determined that the cell planned to carry out terrorist bombings in central cities in Israel and the northern West Bank, including a bombing in Tel Aviv, a suicide bombing and an explosive attack in Jerusalem, a bombing in the Itamar settlement and shooting attacks in the Samaria region,” the security service said.
The cell was led by 35-year-old Mutasem Muhammad Salem and 33-year-old Faras Kamel Zavidi, both from Nablus, who were in charge of more than 20 operatives, mostly affiliated with Hamas.
Salem is also believed to have been in contact with an operative of the Syria-based Nusra Front terror group.
“Most of them had a connection to the Hamas organization and some of them had a rich history of terrorist activities, including in the production of explosives and bombs,” the Shin Bet said.
IEDs found in possession of a Hamas cell near Nablus (photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit).
Explosive devices, including a 10kg (22 pounds) bomb that could be detonated by cellphone, were seized.
“Additional materials for creating an explosive device, weapons and information storage devices with instructions on the manufacturing of bombs and explosives were also discovered,” the security service said.
Weapons seized from a Hamas cell near Nablus (photo: IDF Spokesperson Unit).
The cell began operating in October of last year, the Shin Bet said.
Some of the attacks planned were foiled at the last moment, the security agency added.
“The discovery of this cell shows the constant desire by the Hamas organization to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets to disturb the relative calm,” the Shin Bet said.
According to a senior Shin Bet officer, the cell proves that despite the relative quiet with regards to Hamas terror attacks inside the borders of Israel, the terror group has no intention of giving up its goal to inflict as much harm as possible on the Jewish state.
“This case again shows the desire and efforts that Hamas is investing in building terrorist infrastructures in Judea and Samaria in order to carry out severe attacks in Israel,” he said.
“Severe attacks and loss of life have been prevented. We, along with our partners in the IDF and Israel Police, will continue to take determined action to thwart Hamas’s murderous intentions. Infrastructure members will be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.
Watch the video of Netanyahu praising the Shin Bet Security Agency below (Hebrew):