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Israel Busts Hamas Cell Planning Attacks on Jerusalem Rail, Knesset’s Ben Gvir

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

A Hamas military drill in the Gaza Strip in March 2018. Photo: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa.

Israeli security forces last month busted a Hamas terror cell in eastern Jerusalem planning to carry out a series of attacks in Israel, including against Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir and Jerusalem’s light rail service.

In a joint operation, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency and Israel Police arrested five Palestinian Hamas operatives from the Old City of Jerusalem and the city’s eastern neighborhoods. The group was planning to kidnap Israeli soldiers; murder public figures, including the far-right lawmaker Ben Gvir, in shooting attacks; and produce explosive devices. They are also accused of planning an attack on the Jerusalem light rail using a drone armed with explosives.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he was updated on the status of the operation to thwart the cell, and directed the Shin Bet and other authorities to take all necessary steps to catch those threatening Israeli citizens.

The security forces found that the cell was led by Rashid Rashak, who was described as a “prominent Hamas operative” and a resident of the Old City. The investigation uncovered that members of the group planned to hide in the cities of Hebron or Jenin in the West Bank after the attacks.

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Rashak was also allegedly planning a shooting or suicide attack in Jerusalem with Mansour Safadi, another Hamas operative from eastern Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities said they seized a drone planned for use in an attack on Jerusalem’s light rail, a camera designed to photograph hostages, money, and equipment provided by the Hamas terror group.

According to the investigation, the plotters were also involved in recruiting and setting up a network of Hamas activists in Jerusalem, tasked with inciting violent clashes during Ramadan last month around Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and the city’s eastern neighborhoods. The suspects are accused of purchasing and taking fireworks and other Hamas materials, including flags and ribbons, to the Al-Aqsa compound for use during the riots.

“Israel will continue to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem,” the foreign ministry stated. “Palestinian terror groups, under the false slogan of ‘protecting the holy places,’ aim only to instigate and incite to violence, bloodshed and terror.”

Responding to news of the investigation on Twitter, Ben Gvir thanked Israel’s security forces, while blaming “incitement” by “leftists” and the rhetoric of Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for the plot.

The five men arrested last month were charged with a number of terror offenses, and indicted in a Jerusalem court on Tuesday.

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