IDF busts massive Hamas terror network in Judea and Samaria

Months-long operation leads to arrests of 50 Hamas operatives whose terror plans were in advanced stages.

By David Hellerman, World Israel News

Israeli officials confirmed on Monday that security forces arrested 50 Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria who were in the advanced stages of planning terror attacks. Weapons and money were seized as well as materials to produce four suicide bomb belts.

It wasn’t clear from the Hebrew reports exactly when the arrests were made. But Israeli authorities said the bust was a follow up on a series of counter-terror raids carried out by the IDF in September.

According to the Shin Bet security service, the cell was headed by Saleh Arouri, who lives in Turkey. Arouri serves as Hamas’ overall military commander for Judea and Samaria. He reportedly masterminded the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in 2014, which escalated to a war with Gaza.

The network’s commander on the ground was 37 year old Hijazi Qawasmi of Hebron.

The Shin Bet said that Arouri promised Qawasmi $1 million if his men successfully kidnapped an Israeli that Hamas could use as a bargaining chip. Hamas currently holds Israeli civilian captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are believed to be alive, as well as the bodies of IDF soldiers St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar Goldin.

Members of the Hamas network came from various Palestinian towns throughout Judea and Samaria, including Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin.

A Shin Bet official quoted by Hebrew media said the bust was “an extensive and significant thwarting of a dangerous terrorist infrastructure that had planned a series of severe terrorist attacks.”

He added that “The purpose of the intensified terrorist activity of Hamas operatives abroad and in Gaza vis-à-vis the operatives in Judea and Samaria is to undermine stability in the area, while imposing a heavy price on local residents.”