In a joint operation by the Shin Bet, the Israel Police and the IDF, six members of a Hamas terror cell from Hebron and Jerusalem have been arrested while plotting to kidnap and murder an Israeli in order to use his body as ransom for the release of Palestinian prisoners.
The Shin Bet announced on Thursday that it had uncovered the cell, which was in the late stages of planning a complex operation to abduct and kill an Israeli in an attack reminiscent of the horrific 2014 murders of three Israeli youths before Operation Protective Edge.
Shin Bet investigators said that the terrorists had begun advanced preparations for the attack, including finding a hideout in which to stash the body of the murdered Israeli.
The two leaders of the cell, identified as Ziad Abu-Haduan, 20, from Jerusalem’s Old City, and Maher Qawasmeh, 36, a resident of Hebron, had both been previously imprisoned for terrorist and violent activities.
Abu-Haduan was released only in October after being convicted of violent activity on the Temple Mount. Qawasmeh had served two years in Israeli jail for previous involvement in planning terror attacks with Hamas.
Over the past year, the cell held several meetings in Hebron to discuss which type of attack to carry out, finally settling on the abduction and killing of an Israeli.
The cell members told investigators that they had planned to carry out the abduction using two vehicles. Amar Rajabi, 22, also from the Old City of Jerusalem, would use his knowledge of Hebrew to lure an Israeli into one of the cars.
The terrorists would then kill the passenger and bury his body in the location they had prepared before using him as a bargaining chip to negotiate for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
In their planning stages, the members of the cell explored caves and plots of land near Hebron to find the best hiding spot for the body.
After three cell members from Jerusalem were arrested, the remaining members adjusted their plan and began building an explosive for a bomb attack.