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On Sunday June 17th, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) released a statement saying that Israeli forces arrested twenty members of Hamas in the West Bank city of Nablus. The cell planned to carry out attacks in multiple cities. Most of the operatives arrested were Hamas associates, some with previous terror ties.

The cell was led by Mu’tazem Muhammad Salem and Faras Kamel Zavidi, both from Nablus. Salem and Zavidi are both charged with building explosive charges as well as planning attacks.

Possible bombing targets included sites in Tel Aviv, Itamar, and Jerusalem, along with shooting attacks in the West Bank.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found several home-made explosives including a twenty pound bomb with a cell phone trigger. Thirty pounds of explosive materials were also discovered along with raw materials for the production of explosives, weapons.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) detonated the materials in a controlled explosion. Nablus is considered a central hotbed of terrorism in the West Bank during the Second Intifada from 2000-2005. The Second Intifada caused the death of around 1,000 Israelis and injured thousands more.

Shin Bet officials say the leader of the cell received $100,000 dollars from an operative of Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al Nusra Front to conduct major terror attacks against Israeli cities. Shin Bet said that Hamas’ efforts to establish terrorist infrastructure in Samaria undermines the calm within Israel.

Hamas is taking every opportunity to attack Israel that it can, from both Gaza and sites within Israel.

Since September, 2015 there has been an increase in the number of Hamas attacks thwarted by security forces including attempts to take Israelis hostage to seek the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists.

Hamas seeks to expand its capabilities in the West Bank.  In December 2017, the head of Shin Bet said Hamas was positioned to take over the West Bank due to the weakness of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Al Qaeda and Hamas have a long history of cooperation, including financial ties dating back to at least January of 2003, when German police arrested Hamas operative Mohammed Al Hassan Al-Moayad on charges from the FBI of providing financial support to both Al- Qaeda and Hamas. He has provided over $20 million dollars to Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda and Hamas leaders.

The arrest of the Hamas terrorist cell shows that Hamas remains capable of carrying out serious multi-target attacks from within the West Bank.

Hamas is a well-organized terrorist organization and has the resources to carry out attacks against Israel; including leveraging relationships with other international jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda. Israeli authorities must remain vigilant for more of these cells planning attacks in the future and work with allies, including the United States, to combat terror finance and international cooperation between terror groups.

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