The Beer Sheva District Attorney filed indictments Thursday against four individuals from southern Israel and the Gaza Strip on suspicion that they were planning a mass-casualty terror attack at a wedding hall.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials said the leader of the cell, Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu-Taha was arrested on September 21 when he tried to enter Israel from Gaza via the Erez Border Crossing for business purposes. Investigators said Abu-Taha worked for Islamic Jihad and also planned to kidnap and murder an IDF soldier in order to trade the body for Israeli concessions.Other members of the cell included 55-year-old Shafik Hamad Ahmad Abu-Taha, 39-year-old Ahmad Taysir Abd Elrahman Abu-Taha and 40-year-old Massoud Nasser Abu-Amra.
All members of the cell were originally from Gaza, but have spent recent years in Israel. Abu-Amra, originally from Deir el-Balah, now resides in Tel Sheva, near Beer Sheva, after receiving permanent resident status following an application to move to Israel on “family reunification” grounds.
Hamad Ahmad Abu-Taha and Ahmad Taysir Abd Elrahman Abu-Taha have been living in Israel illegally.
Investigators said Shafik Hamad Ahmad Abu-Taha worked at the wedding hall where the group planned to carry out the attack. While there he observed the hall and planned an attack that would cause the maximum number of casualties.
At the same time, Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu-Taha received thousands of shekels from the Islamic Jihad in order to prepare for the second attack. According to the indictment, the funds were used to rent an apartment in Israel to be used as a hideout after kidnapping a soldier. The group planned to murder the soldier, bury the body and bring his belongings to Gaza in order to trade them.
“This incident illustrates once again (the degree to which) terror operatives in Gaza will carry out murderous attacks in Israel,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “It also illustrates the way terror operatives take advantage of entry permits to Israel, given for humanitarian needs, as well as the danger posed by Palestinians who reside in Israel illegally.”