Bethlehem Area Islamic Jihad Cells Uncovered

The ISA , in conjunction with the IDF and the Israel Police, has uncovered Islamic Jihad terrorist cell that was operated in Gush Etzion. An additional cell – that planned execute an attack on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman – was also thwarted.

Six terrorists were arrested pursuant to the ISA investigation including cell leaders:


Awad Mahmoud Awad al-Askara, 25, a resident of Rafidiyeh/Bethlehem, an Islamic Jihad militant, who had been held under administrative detention in 2015-2017,  for planning a terrorist attack; and


Mahmoud Ali Ibrahim al-Askara, 32, a resident of Rafidiyeh, an Islamic Jihad militant, who had been imprisoned twice for Islamic Jihad activity and involvement in preparing an IED and planning an attack against IDF forces.


The ISA investigation of the detainees revealed that they worked to acquire explosives in order to manufacture an IED and contacted terrorists in the Gaza Strip regarding financing. When they were unable to acquire explosives, they decided to manufacture a dummy charge in order to receive financing and recognition of their activity and to carry out additional attacks. This device was seized during their arrest.


It was also learned that one of the motives for the activity of one cell member, similar to other young people in the Bethlehem area, was to be arrested in order to receive prisoner payments from Islamic Jihad.


It will be recalled that in 2014, members of a Hamas cell were arrested. The cell leader was Amad Ibrahim Salim Mahmoud Zir, a Hamas militant from the Bethlehem area village of Beit Kharmale, which worked to acquire an RPG in order to attack a vehicle in which Defense Minister Liberman would be traveling.


In the investigation of the current cell members, it was learned that they were aware that these attempts had failed and that they surmised that they might succeed if they planted an IED along the minister's route. The cell members were deterred by the minister's heavy security. Cell members were arrested while their plan was in its very early stages.


Indictments were filed today (Sunday, 18 February 2018), in Judea Military Court.


The aforesaid planned attacks reflect the recent and increasing efforts of Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to intensify operations in Judea and Samaria.


The cell's plans to appeal for assistance from terrorists based in the Gaza Strip are part of a growing trend by terrorists in Judea and Samaria to acquire financing, war materiel, guidance and sponsorship from sources outside Judea and Samaria.


This successful counter-terrorist operation joins many others in recent months in which terrorists based in Judea and Samaria have sought to leverage their links with their Gazan counterparts in order to commit attacks.


The security establishment will continue to take determined counter-terrorist action and warns both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip of the consequences of carrying out attacks in Judea and Samaria.