Thursday, December 24, 2015

24-Dec-15: Another terror outrage narrowly averted - and Shalit Deal releasees are again at the heart of the darkness

Al-Quds University students [Image Source]
This could have turned out very, very badly - and might still.

Right here in Jerusalem, side by side with ordinary, constructive lives being lived by most of the people who call this special city home, a cluster of death-cultists - yet another in a lengthening string of them, working in dark places and preparing unspeakably dark plans involving injuries, mayhem and deaths - has been stopped.

No one imagines they are the only such cluster of plotters or that there will not be others on the way. But these, at least, have been stopped for now.

No innocent civilians were hurt - at least, not for now. So news coverage of this important development has been sparse outside our beleaguered country, particularly as seasonal celebrations have the attention of most of Europe, Australia and the Americas. From Times of Israel:
The Shin Bet, alongside the IDF and Israel Police, have thus far arrested 25 Hamas operatives, the majority of them Al-Quds University in Abu Dis students, who they suspect were preparing to attack Israeli targets, the agency said in a statement. The arrests were carried out over the past few weeks. The service also uncovered a makeshift laboratory in Abu Dis, in east Jerusalem, which was being used to create the explosives necessary for bombing attacks. It said the cell was controlled by Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip... In addition to the Abu Dis terror cell, the Shin Bet also busted a [related] Bethlehem-based group... ["Hamas cell planned suicide and car bombings, Shin Bet reveals", Times of Israel, December 23, 2015]
Some of the plotters
The article makes clear that some of the intelligence that led to the unraveling of this group's plans came from interrogations carried out by PA security officers of Hamas people arrested by them. As we keep noting in this blog, Hamas operates throughout the areas occupied by the PA, in some places more publicly, in others less. Their hand, not to mention their flags and the signs of their terror-focused activities, are everywhere.

Among those arrested in this latest intercept:
  • Ahmad Jamal Mousa Azzam, 24, from Qalqilya, at some point a student at Al-Quds University in Abu Dis: Considered the terrorist ringleader, and controlled from Gaza. He was given training by his handlers in "how to create explosive belts and vests, as well as improvised explosive devices". Once in, Azzam recruited the others, mostly from among the Al-Quds student body. Some of those were intended to become human bombs.
  • Hazem Ziad Amran Sandouqa, 22, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem and an Israeli citizen - therefore able to move around with relative ease, an obvious strategic advantage to the planning and execution of terror. 
  • Fahdi Daoud Muhammad Abu Qaian, 19, also an Israeli citizen, a Bedouin from the Negev, and a designated attacker in the terror plot. Under interrogation, he confessed that he was being prepared for a bombing mission by means of an explosive vest or by driving an explosives-packed vehicle into an Israeli target (we're guessing the target would have consisted of human beings).
  • Issa Nasser Issa Shoka, 19, an Al-Quds University student, a designated money courier and intending human bomb, as well as one of the leaders of the Bethlehem cell.
  • Muhammad Waleed Ahmad Sarhkhan, 20, of the Bethlehem cell.
  • Muhammad Na’im Issa Ali, 19, also from the Bethlehem cell, another intending human bomb.
Avi Issacharoff, in a follow-on article published last night ["What if the Hamas terror cell in Abu Dis had succeeded?", Times of Israel, December 23, 2015], looks at the dire consequences had this Hamas terrorist cell not been stopped:
The Palestinian Authority is surviving. And overall, Israeli citizens have become used to a sick reality in which almost every day Palestinians try to attack them. [But although] this weapons factory and infrastructure were discovered, the fact is that every passing day moves us closer to Second Intifada-style terrorism... [Issacharoff]

Viewing yesterday's IDF real-time video (above) of soldiers breaking into the Jerusalem lab and doing an inventory of the chemicals they found there turns this into something more real and immediate. For purposes of bomb making, the jihadist/murderers had stocked up (something we have not seen reported so far in the news) on nitro-glycerine and cyanide - they're shown clearly. That's in addition to an evil scientist's trove of lethal substances and explosives intended for killing and seriously harming people. Experience tells us those people would have been innocent Israelis, almost certainly civilians. That's how terror works.

Had, Heaven forbid, the Abu Dis/Bethlehem terror collective pulled off a "showcase" outrage
The Israeli government would have come under immense pressure to take steps against the PA, and the call for a closure of the major West Bank cities would have come from every direction. The pressure would likely have led to a ban on all Palestinian workers entering Israel, and possibly even to a widespread IDF operation in one or more West Bank cities... Tens of thousands more unemployed Palestinians would be on the streets, with hundreds of thousands affected by their loss of income. More violent confrontations with young Palestinians would likely ensue. The fraying of cooperation between the PA security forces and the IDF would be inevitable, maybe even a complete severance of such cooperation. And at the end of that slippery slope, the collapse of the PA itself... [T]hat’s precisely why Hamas has been trying so hard to set up an infrastructure capable of carrying out suicide attacks against Israeli civilians, including inside sovereign Israel... Hamas is avoiding a direct confrontation with Israel in Gaza but is doing a lot to heat things up in the West Bank. Senior Hamas operatives in Gaza know they have a certain amount of immunity from Israel, because Israel does not want another major conflict there. The people who are today orchestrating the effort to carry out attacks are mostly Hamas members who were freed in the 2011 Shalit exchange — West Bankers who were exiled to Gaza under the deal. Somebody in Israel evidently believed, or wanted to believe, that confining them to Gaza would reduce the danger they presented. Except that even from Gaza, these people have now become a central headache for Israel in the West Bank... [Issacharoff]
We blogged last month ["27-Nov-14: Hamas terrorist ring is busted; Israel says the handlers operate from Turkey; Qatar is involved"] about the meaningfully-malevolent role of Shalit Deal releasees. And we offered more background here: "11-Dec-15: The price of the Shalit Deal and the countries that help it keep rising".

The price paid by Israeli society - and in a meaningful sense also by the Palestinian Arabs - for this catastrophic transaction keeps growing. Yet there remains, it has to be said and with some pain, a striking unwillingness among the insiders of our government to properly analyze what was done, reach operative conclusions and express sincere regret. It's surely called for.

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