Mortar shells confiscated in Bethlehem
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Office)
During February 2006, the ISA and the IDF uncovered a Tanzim military infrastructure in the Bethlehem area, which was instructed by Popular Resistance Committees terrorists from the Gaza Strip, and was involved in shooting attacks in the Bethlehem district and the adjacent Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem (Gilo and Har Homa). An attempted mortar attack, which was due to be carried out the day after the arrests, was among the foiled attacks.
Several members of the infrastructure, some of whom were detained recently, were fugitives who operated out of Palestinian Authority (PA) buildings in Bethlehem where they were protected from possible arrest.
The infrastructure was led by Jabr Fouaz Eid Akhras, a member of the PA National Security Service, originally from the Gaza Strip but who currently resides in Bethlehem. He was behind the 18 November 2003 deaths of Sgt.-Maj. Shlomi Belsky and St.-Sgt. Shaul Lahav at the tunnels checkpoint near Bethlehem. From his room in the Mukata, Jabr commanded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Bethlehem and systematically directed attacks despite the fact that Israel had repeatedly requested that Palestinian security service heads halt his activities and despite Palestinian claims that he was in prison.
The infrastructure members who were arrested had considerable war materiel in their possession, including: eight IDF mortar rounds, a mortar, a machine gun, flak jackets and helmets.
The arrested infrastructure members admitted that they intended to perpetrate mortar and small arms attacks on Gilo and Har Homa, with the attack on Gilo due to be carried out a day or two after the arrests. They also admitted to planning mortar and small arms attacks on an IDF base in the Bethlehem area and on an IDF patrol in El Khader.
The arrested infrastructure members said that Popular Resistance Committees terrorists from the Gaza Strip were instructing, and providing professional and financial assistance to, members of the infrastructure in Bethlehem and were, in effect, moving the center of their activities from the Gaza Strip to the Bethlehem area following the IDF departure from Gaza.