A Hamas terrorist cell in the advanced stages of planning a major attack has been taken out in a joint operation by the Israel Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency, or Shabak).
The cell was discovered last month; its six members were residents of Jerusalem and Hebron. The terrorists planned to kidnap and murder Israeli citizens in an attack similar to that carried out in June 2014 against three yeshiva teens in Gush Etzion. The cell was in the advanced stages of planning, according to the Shin Bet, and had reached the point where cell members had begun to prepare a place to store the bodies of abduction victims.
The Shin Bet investigation revealed the cell was comprised of three Israeli residents who lived in Jerusalem, and three members who lived in the Palestinian Authority-controlled section of Hebron.
All six members of the cell have been taken into custody.
The Shabak investigation discovered that over the past few months the six cell members had been looking at caves and digging up several plots where they planned to hide the dead body of their kidnapped victim. They were going to use two vehicles, with the Israeli member of the cell driving the kidnapping vehicle, since his Hebrew is good enough to allay suspicion. They planned to murder their victim and bury the body, then negotiate for released prisoners in exchange for it.
Mehar Kawasma, 36, a resident of Hebron, was the leader of the cell. He had served two years in Israeli prison for a previous involvement in planning Hamas terror activities.
After the Israeli members of the cell had been arrested, Kawasma started to produce explosives with the remaining members, in the hope of carrying out a mega-attack in a civilian center. They purchased fertilizer and tried to make explosives but did not succeed.