Israeli security forces have arrested a cell of Palestinian teenagers suspected of attacking Jewish worshipers and security forces at Rachel’s Tomb, in northern Bethlehem, police announced Thursday morning.
The seven suspects, all residents of Aida refugee camp located adjacent to the site, are suspected of throwing rocks and improvised pipe bombs towards the prayer site on several occasions in recent months. Police say the suspects, all aged 16 and 17, produced the explosives, planned and carried out the terror attacks by themselves. The pipe bombs were thrown from an area under full Palestinian control (‘Area A’).
While the attacks caused no casualties, they caused extensive damage to the site and endangered worshipers. The compound is believed to be the burial place of the Biblical matriarch Rachel.
Police and Border Police forces arrested all seven cell members during the past week. The last three arrests took place on Wednesday night. Police claimed that the suspects admitted to participating in many attacks on Israelis at Rachel’s Tomb.
The investigation also revealed that the cell members had learned how to assemble the explosives from the internet. They purchased the materials themselves, assembled the pipe bombs and would then gather together near Rachel’s Tomb mainly on Friday afternoons. After hurling the explosives and throwing rocks they would return to their village.
The suspects’ remand has been extended at a military court, and three were arraigned on Wednesday. Police said the investigation is ongoing, and that more arrests are expected.
In a related story, IDF forces discovered and seized two pipe bombs overnight in Nur Shams, a Palestinian village near Tulkarem in Samaria. In the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, troops discovered and confiscated weapon parts found inside a house.