Chilling Details Emerge From Thwarted Jerusalem Hamas Plot to Assassinate Netanyahu in Terror Attack
by Ruthie Blum
Details of a thwarted Hamas-hatched plan to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were revealed for the first time on Sunday, after a two-month interrogation of the suspects involved, the Hebrew news site Walla reported.
According to the report, the plot was made public with the Attorney General’s indictment last month of two of the terrorists, including the head of the cell, a 25-year-old from Kfar Yassuf in the West Bank who had rented an apartment in the Abu Dis neighborhood of east Jerusalem.
Ahmed Azzam was in the advanced stages of establishing Hamas infrastructure in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, with funding and direction from Hamas in Gaza, the indictment said. To this end, he had purchased chemical materials and rented the apartment in east Jerusalem, where he set up an explosives lab. Also, according to the indictment, Azzam recruited the terrorist who was tasked with transporting the bombs beyond the Green Line.
It was this terrorist, Hazam Sanduka — nicknamed “the mechanic” for his intimate knowledge of cars — who had determined that Netanyahu would be the main target.
The 22-year-old resident of east Jerusalem and a student of Arabic at Abu Dis University was recruited in November by Azzam, who was looking for a Jerusalem resident to aid in the preparation of terrorist attacks.
The following are excerpts of interrogations conducted by the Shin Bet-Israel Security Agency and Sanduka:
Interrogator: Did you plan where to carry out terror attacks?
Sanduka: After discussing with Azzam the possibility of kidnappings, suicide attacks or bombings, I began to think about the most suitable place to carry them out. Since I worked for a security company in Jerusalem, I thought the most appropriate places were the Malha shopping mall, the Jerusalem [sports] Arena and the Great Synagogue, because many people frequent those places, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Interrogator: What was your job at the security company?
Sanduka: My job was to conduct security checks at the Arena and the Great Synagogue… After purchasing the (chemicals) in Abu Gosh, I drove to Jaffa to check out whether I was being followed and if there was a good place there for a terror attack… I saw that there was, at the Jaffa Port and on the beach, where many restaurants are located, so it is filled with people.
Interrogator: Tell me about your work at the security company.
Sanduka: I worked there for a few months… as a guard and usher… I thought to myself that a stage [at the Jerusalem Arena] would be suitable for blowing up a bomb when… Netanyahu was on it with those close to him. I did not do it, because I don’t know how to do it and I don’t know how to create explosives and bombs.
Interrogator: Did you have the thought of becoming a martyr?
Sanduka: I did not have that thought, but I know that to die a martyr is the most sacred death.
According to Walla, the Shin Bet originally believed that this group was an ISIS cell operating in Israel. But eventually, it was led to focus on Azzam, who had served time in an Israeli prison two years earlier. It was during his stint in jail, Azzam later told his interrogators, that he had decided to contact Hamas in Gaza and pledge to carry out attacks in Israel in order to receive financial aid.
But Hamas inmates told him to stop talking about military operations, for fear that they would not be able to be released in future prisoner swaps. Nevertheless, according to Walla, in August Azzam managed to make the necessary connection with a dispatcher in Gaza – via the app Telegram and through Gmail chat – who told him he would be responsible for Azzam’s training.
Azzam told his interrogators about the instructions he received. Meanwhile, he said, he began to look for people to join the Hamas cell he was establishing – a mere few kilometers from Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem.