Cleared for publication Wednesday: Three Hamas militants planned to abduct Israeli soldier, hold him captive near Ramallah; cell planned to purchase vehicle with Israeli license plates.
The three suspects, all allegedly members of a Ramallah-based cell, were arrested two months ago, but the case was put under gag order until indictment served.
Cleared for publication: The Shin Bet exposed a Palestinian cell that planned to kidnap an IDF soldier and use him as a bargaining chip for the release of jailed Palestinians held in Israel.
The three cell members arrested in January near Ramallah were indicted in a military court last month.
In order to carry out the abduction, the suspects attempted to purchase a vehicle with Israeli license plates to be used in the operation. They also planned to acquire forged Israeli ID cards and join forces with other terrorists able to gain entry into Israel.
Suspects met in jail
The cell was led by Amad Khamza Zaharan, a 31-year-old Hamas man previously imprisoned in Israel for four years in connection with planned attacks. He embarked on the abduction plot upon his release from prison in December 2010.
The cell's second member is Nazam Shanina, originally from the Gaza Strip. He arrived in Ramallah about a decade ago as a member of the Palestinian Authority's security arms and in 2006 was part of a cell planning shooting attacks and abductions. He was subsequently detained and jailed for four years, and during this time joined Hamas.
The third detained terrorist, Jihad al-Shami, 34, is also originally from the Gaza Strip, where he was a member of the Popular Front. He arrived in the West Bank without permits in 2005, and three years later was detained.
All three suspects met during their prison term.
The suspects planned to purchase land in the Ramallah area and build a home with a room or underground tunnel to be used for holding the abducted soldier. Al-Shami was to live in the apartment and maintain his daily routine, while guarding the kidnapped soldier.
Cell members attempted to secure funding for their plan by approaching Hamas members in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian and Israeli security sources told Haaretz last month that Hamas militants in the West Bank have resumed their efforts to kill Israeli soldiers or civilians and abduct their bodies.
The sources said Hamas activists believe they cannot keep Israeli hostages out of the Shin Bet and Palestinian Authority's reach for long. So they plan to kill them, abduct and bury the bodies, then negotiate for returning them to Israel.
Hamas headquarters in Damascus and Gaza are pressuring organization cells in the West Bank to kill Israelis and abduct their bodies, in view of the effect Gilad Shalit's abduction has had on Israeli public opinion. Another reason for the pressure is the failure of Shalit's abduction to bring the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, the sources told Haaretz.
Hamas planned similar attacks in the Ramallah area in the middle of the last decade. In the past year, attempting to rebuild the organization's military networks that were damaged during the second intifada, it has returned to this line of action.
The Palestinian Authority and Israel have recently captured in the Ramallah region alone about five cells planning to kill Israelis and abduct their bodies.
A Shin Bet official said that "the cell's activity illustrates yet again the high motivation of terror groups in general, and Hamas in particular, to carry out abductions even at this time, in order to use the captives as leverage for the release of Palestinian prisoners."
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