Jerusalem, March 31, 2003

Jaljulya terrorist cell and explosives laboratory uncovered
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

A joint Israel Security Agency, Israel Police and Border Police operation has – for the first time – uncovered an Islamic Jihad explosives laboratory in Israel and has arrested an Israeli Arab cell led by Muhammad Masri, an Israeli citizen from Jaljulya and the son of a Palestinian woman from Tulkarm who had received an Israeli identity card in the context of family unification efforts. Two other residents of Jaljuliya – Iman Abu Kishak and Fadel Abed – have also been arrested.

The cell has previously perpetrated firebomb attacks in the Jaljulya area (in the summer of 2002 where no injuries were incurred) and recently became affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, whose militants directed the cell to prepare the explosives laboratory and use it to prepare a car-bomb attack inside Israel.

Towards the end of 2002, while on a visit to family members in Tulkarm, Muhammad Masri met with known Islamic Jihad terrorist Nimr Khalil. Khalil asked Masri to help him in infiltrating a car-bomb from the West Bank into Israel. Masri was to drive the vehicle, leave it in an appropriate place and detonate it by means of a cellular telephone. Masri agreed to examine the feasibility of such an operation.

Approximately one week later, Masri met Khalil again and told him that the infiltration of a vehicle into Israel was not feasible due to the fact that most possible routes had been blocked by dirt embankments. Khalil then suggested that he show Masri how to prepare a car bomb in Jaljuliya itself. Masri agreed but later told Khalil he had not found an appropriate place in Jaljuiya in order to prepare the car-bomb.

Khalil then suggested that Masri help him in infiltrating a suicide-terrorist into Israeli territory and later introduced him to two Islamic Jihad terrorists who gave him a detailed list of bomb-making materials that he was to purchase, along with NIS 2,000.

Muhammad Masri then spent the next several weeks as follows:

  1. He purchased all of the items on the aforementioned list.
  2. As per instructions, he began working on the items he purchased.
  3. He updated Iman Abu Kishak, told him that he had joined Islamic Jihad and asked him to help him perpetrate a terrorist attack inside Israeli territory by – inter alia – locating suitable sites for leaving bombs that would cause as many casualties as possible. Upon seeing the bomb-making materials at Masri’s home, Abu Kishak agreed to help Masri.

After Abu Kishak notified Masri that he had found a suitable place for a car-bomb, he drove Masri from Jaljuliya to the IDF base at Tzrifin. Abu Kishak then pointed out a soldiers’ hitchhiking stop as the place he had selected.

Muhammad Masri purchased a phony identity card (for NIS 200) to assist the suicide-terrorist in entering Israeli territory. Before his arrest, Masri had asked Khalil to see to it that the suicide terrorist obtain a photograph so that it could be affixed to the phony ID.

On Feb 28, 2003, Masri met Khalil and his colleagues in Tulkarm and informed them that the attack was ready to be perpetrated. Masri was told that a suicide-terrorist would soon be forthcoming. Masri was asked to find a metalworker who could prepare a metal container to hold the bomb and increase its explosive effect. When Masri said that this would not be possible, he was told that such a container would be procured for him.

On Feb 29, 2003, Masri again met with Khalil and one of the latter’s colleagues. Masri was informed that the suicide-terrorist had asked to postpone the planned attack but that another suicide-terrorist was available. Masri was told that a car-bomb would be ready imminently, that the suicide-terrorist would be infiltrated into Israel through Baka al-Garbiye, and that the suicide-terrorist would contact Masri by telephone so that Masri could pick him up and take him to Tzrifin. Masri returned home to Jaljuliya and, in the meantime, purchased a cloth bag.

A few days later, Masri telephoned Khalil and inquired as to the preparations for the attack. Khalil answered that the suicide-terrorist would arrive with the car-bomb in another two days.

Masri contacted Fadel Abed, told him about the attack and asked him to help find an apartment in which the suicide-terrorist and the materials that Masri had purchased could be concealed. Abed said that he would make enquiries. Masri was arrested a short time before the attack was supposed to be perpetrated.

Masri told his investigators that he acted from ideological motives and that he had begun to become religiously observant approximately two years ago. He added if it were not for his frequent visits to his mother’s relatives in Tulkarm, he might not have become involved with fugitive terrorists.

The State Prosecutor’s Office (Central District) will soon present indictments against Masri, Abu Kishak and Abed.

It should be pointed out that during the current round of Palestinian violence, several cases in which those who hold Israeli ID cards as a result of family unification efforts have become attractive targets for recruitment into terrorist organizations due to their ability to move about inside Israeli territory. Shadi Tubasi, who perpetrated the March 31, 2002 suicide-bombing at the Matza restaurant in Haifa, in which 15 Israelis were murdered, was one such example.