Raids targeting suspected members of a Hamas cell in the West Bank on Saturday night, killing five Palestinian suspects, prevented a major terrorist attack reminiscent of the second Intifada, officials told Hebrew television networks.
The cell planned to carry out a series of kidnappings and murders across the country, defense officials told Channel 13 news. However, the group did not have the ability to commit suicide bombs, the network said.
Officials assessed to Channel 12 that the cell had also planned a major attack in Jerusalem, similar to those seen during the violent uprising in the early 2000s, without elaborating further.
The arrest began after Shin Bet realized the group was apparently set to carry out the attack immediately, the network said.
Israel’s defense forces believe some members of the Hamas cell are still at large. In all, about 20 suspected members of the cell have been arrested in recent days, according to the military.
Officials suspect there was a direct line of communication between the cell and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terrorist group, Channel 12 said. The cell was well-organized and decentralized, the network added.
Operations against the cell on the West Bank are likely to continue in the coming days, officials told Kan’s public television station. But still, the IDF believes it largely prevented the group’s attacks, according to military assessments.
According to the IDF, at least seven suspected members of the Hamas cell were arrested during arrest on Saturday night, and at least five other suspected terrorists were killed after opening fire on IDF troops. Five cannons were also confiscated in the raids along with large quantities of ammunition. Several other members of the group had been arrested the previous nights.
The IDF is also investigating the circumstances in which two soldiers were seriously injured in a shooting and increasingly believe they were hit by friendly fire after a Palestinian perpetrator opened fire on them.
“This is a significant achievement, a night with a series of preventive raids of the utmost importance that prevented – from our understanding – significant terrorist attacks. Such attacks could have been carried out in Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Afula or elsewhere, “said IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on Sunday afternoon, speaking from the Israeli Defense Forces’ Menashe Regional Brigade headquarters in the northern West Bank, following a situation analysis.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett confirmed that the Hamas cell planned to carry out terrorist attacks immediately.
“Security forces acted last night in Judea and Samaria against Hamas terrorists who were ready to carry out terrorist attacks in the near future,” Bennett said in a statement on his way to New York to speak at the UN General Assembly using the biblical term for West Bank.
The IDF declined to comment more specifically on what the alleged Hamas cell was suspected of planning to do, but said most members were arrested with weapons in their possession and that some of them had opened fire on Israeli troops during the raids.
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