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Shin Bet busts Iranian terror cell planning attacks on Ben Gvir and ex-MK Glick

The Shin Bet security service revealed on Wednesday that it had uncovered an Iranian-backed terror cell that attempted to carry out attacks in Israel and the West Bank, including against National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and former Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick.

According to a statement from the Shin Bet, three West Bank Palestinians — Murad Kamamja, a 47-year-old resident of Kafr Dan; Hassan Mujarima, a 34-year-old resident of Jenin; and Ziad Shanti, 45 and also of Jenin — were arrested.

Two Arab Israelis, Hamad Hammadi, a 23-year-old resident of Nazareth, and Yusef Hamad, an 18-year-old resident of Muqeible, were also arrested. Prosecutors have submitted indictments to the Military Court and Haifa District Court against those involved, listing serious security offenses and charging them with contact with a foreign agent, arson and aiding infiltrators.

According to the Shin Bet and Haifa prosecutors, an Iranian intelligence operative based in Jordan tasked Kamamja and Mujarima with smuggling weapons and organizing terror operations in Israel, including plans to set cars and gas stations alight and break the windows of businesses.

They were told to ensure that the acts were documented on video, and that they would be paid for carrying out the tasks.

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They were also tasked with gathering intelligence on Ben Gvir’s and Glick’s security, apparently as part of efforts to harm them. The Shin Bet did not state what such plans entailed but noted that due to the security details of the two men, the suspects did not succeed in that task.

Clockwise from top left: Yusef Hamad, Murad Kamamja, Hassan Mujarima, Ziad Shanti and Hamad Hammadi. (Shin Bet)

Kamamja and Mujarima were responsible for recruiting Shanti to advance their plans. Shanti then recruited the two Arab Israelis, who set fire to at least four cars on Ha’Ari Street in Haifa on June 21, 2023. Hammadi and Hamad recorded their acts on video.

According to the indictment filed in Haifa, Shanti offered Hamad NIS 1,000 for each car belonging to a Jewish person that he set ablaze. He also asked Hammadi in August 2023 to smuggle cellphones into Israeli prisons and to smuggle individuals from Lebanon into Israel in exchange for payment, but he refused.

In July, the indictment said, Hammadi — acting on Shanti’s orders — checked out locations along the Israel-Jordan border that were best suited for smuggling infiltrators into Israel.

During questioning, Shanti admitted that he was aware of Tehran’s support of the cell and financial backing of such activities.

“The investigation reveals the nature of Iran’s methods of using Israeli citizens, including people with a criminal background, and recruiting them to promote terrorist activity on criminal operation platforms, in exchange for financial payment,” the Shin Bet said in its statement.

It said it was the latest proof of Iran’s efforts to challenge Israel’s security in this way.

Ben Gvir lauded the Shin Bet for thwarting the plans, and vowed to “continue to act fearlessly and with determination to bring about a fundamental change in the conditions of imprisonment for the terrorists in prison, to continue the fight against terrorism, to safeguard the rights of prayer and Jewish sovereignty on the Temple Mount, and to ensure the security and peace of Israeli citizens.”

Glick is also an outspoken advocate of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which is prohibited according to the status quo arrangement in place at the site.

Several Iranian plots aiming to harm Israelis inside the country and around the world have been uncovered over the past year.

File: Then-MK Yehuda Glick speaks during a plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 23, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant accused Iran of setting up an airport in southern Lebanon, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Israeli border, which he said was being used “for terror purposes” against Israelis.

The Shin Bet revealed in August that a month prior, four Israeli citizens were arrested for suspected ties to the Hezbollah terror group, and were allegedly involved in smuggling Iranian-made explosive devices into the country.

In a separate raid in the central city of Lod, security forces arrested another Israeli planning to use a similar explosive device for a criminal-related bombing.

The Israel Defense Forces in August said that security forces foiled an attempt to smuggle Iranian-made explosives into Israel from Jordan last month.

Overseas in July, Azeri security forces arrested a 23-year-old Afghan national on suspicion of planning an attack on Israel’s embassy in Baku. Israel pointed to Iran in the plot.

The month before, Cypriot intelligence services revealed they had foiled an Iranian plot against Jews and Israelis. In March, Greek police arrested two Pakistani nationals who were allegedly planning mass-casualty terrorist attacks against a Jewish restaurant and Chabad House in Athens.

In November of last year, Georgian security officials revealed they had foiled a recent attempt by the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force, to kill a prominent Israeli-Georgian living in the capital Tbilisi.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.