A joint Shin Bet-IDF operation busted a Hamas cell in Hebron which had been planning on carrying out a shooting attack on a highway, the Shin Bet security service revealed on Sunday. Though the cell was brought down in November, the story was only now cleared for publication.
The Shin Bet’s statement said that the cell had been “nearly prepared to carry out an attack”, and that the thwarting of the terror plot “again demonstrates the never-ending attempts by Hamas operatives in Hebron to carry out severe terror acts.”
The ringleader of the cell, Mehmad Ali Qawasmeh, was the brother of one of the terrorists who abducted and killed three Israeli teenagers in 2014 before the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the Shin Bet said.
The extended Qawasmeh family, based in Hebron, is known for its involvement with the Hamas terror organization. Another member of the family, Maher Qawasmeh, was arrested in December for heading up a different Hamas terror cell, this one planning to kidnap and kill an Israeli in the style of the killing of the three Israeli youths.
The Shin Bet reported that the cell had already scouted the Route 35 highway, which runs between Hebron and Ashkelon, for the best vantage point from which to fire on passing vehicles. The cell’s operatives had purchased pistols and an M-16 assault rifle to use in the attack.
Two additional members of the cell, Amer Mehmed Awiwie, and Husam Fakhrie Hashelmon, were also arrested by the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet said that Qawasmeh had also recruited logistical assistants who had been instructed to provide a stolen vehicle which the assailants would use for both the attack and the escape from the scene, when they would be on the run from security forces.
The members of the terror cell were indicted in a military court for conspiring to cause deliberate death and for being members of Hamas, which is an illegal organization. They will be kept in custody for the remainder of the legal proceedings.