Israeli Security Agency (ISA) report
January 2008

Smuggling terrorists into Israeli territory using medical documentation

The demilitarized zone in the Gaza Strip, the security inspections and the interdiction activities of the security forces all create significant obstacles for terrorist organizations trying to smuggle terrorists into Israel.

In recent years there has been an increase in attempts by Palestinian terrorist organizations to overcome these obstacles by smuggling terrorists and terror organization members through the existing crossing points into Israel under the pretence of being patients seeking medical treatment. This is an abuse of Israel’s humanitarian policy of rendering medical attention to all who need it.

These attempts have three main features:

1. Location and recruitment of Palestinians who require genuine medical treatment, some of whom are recruited after receiving an entry permit to Israel and have proved to terrorist organizations that they can enter the State of Israel legally. Others obtain the entry permits with the assistance of terrorist organizations.

2. Forgery of medical certificates or receiving genuine medical certificates by fraud or bribery. Terrorist organizations use their connections with members of the Palestinian establishment such as doctors and hospital administrative workers, who issue these certificates either under threat by terrorist organizations or in exchange for bribes. They use other methods as well.

3. Exploitation of visitation permits in Israel issued to relatives of patients hospitalized in Israeli hospitals.

The activity of the security forces to interdict these attempts has prevented many terrorist activities and severe terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings in Israel, deadly shooting at Israelis and placement of lethal explosive charges. In addition, security forces have prevented attempts to smuggle explosive experts from the Gaza Strip under medical pretenses to enhance the capabilities of terrorist organizations in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of new terrorist squads.

In recent years there has been an increase in attempts to smuggle female suicide bombers under the guise of medical reasons, on the assumption that they will be given entry permits more easily and will be able to enter Israel without arousing suspicion.

Prominent examples of using medical certificates for smuggling terrorists into Israel

May 2007 – The arrest of two female suicide bombers at the Erez crossing who received an authentic entry permit into Israel using false medical information. They planned to carry out a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and in Netanya.

Fatma Zak, 39, a Gaza resident and  pregnant mother of eight, together with her niece Ruda Haviv, 30, also a Gaza resident and mother of four, were apprehended on May 30, 2007 at the Erez crossing. Under questioning by the Israeli Security Agency, they confessed to planning to carry out a double suicide bombing in Tel Aviv and in Netanya under the guidance of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad. They planned on executing these suicide bombings in a restaurant, a celebration hall or in the vicinity of large numbers of soldiers.

For the purpose of entering Israel, one of the Islamic Jihad members acquired genuine medical certificates based on false medical information allowing Haviv to have a medical examination in a hospital located in Ramallah, accompanied by Zak. Furthermore, the Islamic Jihad operative instructed the two to actually undergo the medical examination at the hospital to authenticate their cover story. After completion of the examination, the two were supposed to inform the Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip of their whereabouts and they, in turn, promised them that in a short while an operative would bring them explosive belts and take them to the attack sites.

Some time before the two left for Israel they underwent training on how to use explosive belts and Zak even had training on the use of an AK-47 assault rifle. Zak and Haviv were briefed by their dispatchers on the clothing they should wear on the day of the attack so as not to arouse suspicion as they approached the targets.

September 2006 – The arrest of a member of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) at the Erez crossing who had received an entry permit into Israel on humanitarian grounds. He received the permit due to medical problems and planned to use it to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank.

Jaber Hasan Jaber Darabiye, a Gaza resident born in 1963, confessed under questioning by the Israeli Security Agency that he was recruited in 2006 to the Popular Resistance Committees and was supposed to establish terrorist cells in the West Bank for the purpose of committing terrorist attacks against the State of Israel.

To carry out this plan, the Popular Resistance Committees operatives took advantage of Darabiye’s medical problems to acquire a genuine entry permit for medical treatment in Israel, which would allow him to go to the West Bank and carry out his mission.

To do so, Darabiye applied for documentation attesting to his medical condition so he could receive entry permits for medical treatment in Israel. He was apprehended on arrival at the Erez crossing on September 28, 2006.

June 2005 – A female suicide bomber who was supposed to enter Israel for medical examinations was arrested at the Erez crossing with an explosive belt strapped to her body.

On June 20, 2005 Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bass, a 21-year-old resident of Jebaliah, was apprehended at the Erez crossing with an explosive belt strapped to her body. During the security inspection, Wafa aroused suspicion and responded by trying to activate the explosive belt she was wearing. Under questioning, she testified that she had been sent by the Fatah/al-Aqsa infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip, using the medical treatment permit that was issued to her. Wafa was scheduled to go to the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheba for a follow-up examination – she had been hospitalized there in the past (December 2004 – January 2005) for treatment of severe burns on her body caused by the explosion of a gas cylinder. She was instructed by the organization to carry out the suicide bombing in a crowded area inside an Israeli hospital.

March 2005 – The arrest of a Hamas member, resident of the Gaza Strip, who planned on carrying out a suicide bombing in Israel after his arrival in the West Bank under the pretence of being a potential kidney donor

Muhammed Subahi abd el-Me’ati Bahisi, 26, a HAMAS member and resident of Dir el Balah, testified during his interrogation that he left the Gaza Strip by virtue of a medical procedure that was initiated on behalf of his friend, an Israeli Arab to whom he was willing to donate a kidney. On the basis of Bahisi’s request to check his compatibility for kidney donation as well as the fact that he was registered as a resident of the West Bank, the prohibition on his leaving the Gaza Strip was lifted. It was written that he could leave for medical tests using a one-day exit permit, accompanied by security or in an ambulance. On March 7, 2005 Bahisi left the Gaza Strip for Kalandia using a travel permit allowing him to enter the West Bank due to medical needs and based upon the fact that he is registered as a Kalandia resident in his identification card.

Under questioning, Bahisi testified that a day before his departure, when he received a permit to enter the West Bank and not only a single-entry permit for medical tests at the hospital, he notified Hamas operatives in Gaza about the permit which he had received.

The Hamas operatives instructed him to contact them approximately four months after his arrival in the West Bank and after he had arranged a place to stay without arousing suspicion. After that, they would send him an explosive belt to carry out a suicide bombing.

December 2004 – The arrest of a Hamas member who entered Israel through the Erez crossing using medical documents with the objective of carrying out a suicide bombing

On December 20, 2004, Hamad abed el-Karim Hamad Abu-Lihiya a resident of the Jebaliya refugee camp born in 1981, was apprehended in Baqa el Gharbiya. Abu-Lihiya was recruited as a terrorist by Hamas and smuggled into Israel for the sole purpose of perpetrating a suicide bombing in Israel.

Under questioning, Abu-Lihiya confessed that he was smuggled into Israel through the Erez crossing in August 2004, on the pretence of humanitarian grounds, as a "sleeper" terrorist on behalf of Hamas. He used documents alleging that he had cancer and required medical treatment in a hospital in the center of the country. The initial plan was to have another terrorist join him, and the two were supposed to receive weapons from collaborators inside Israel to be used for a terrorist attack.

December 2004 – The arrest of two terrorists of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who planned on entering Israel through the ‘khet’ route after passing through Egypt under pretence of medical needs

In December 2004 Hasan Ahmed Ali Toum and Muhamed Diab Namer Jaarur were apprehended by the Israeli Security Agency. They are two terrorists from the Gaza Strip who belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and who tried to enter Israel to carry out attacks on Israeli citizens.

Hasan Toum went to Egypt after presenting documents certifying that he was to undergo medical treatment there. Toum was apprehended on December 12 following a chase which developed after he entered the Negev area from Egypt. During his questioning it became evident that his objective in entering Israel was to murder an Israeli citizen and bury his body, thus enabling Fatah members in the Gaza Strip to conduct negotiations with Israel for the release of prisoners. Furthermore, it became evident that Toum was planning to damage the railroad tracks in the Natanya area using explosive charges that he was supposed to get from the Fatah infrastructure in Judea and Samaria. Approximately a week before Toum’s arrest, Muhamed Jaarur was apprehended at the Rafah crossing while attempting to leave Egypt. Under questioning, Jaarur admitted that he was supposed to leave for Egypt to join forces with Hasan Toum and from there to sneak into Israel to carry out terrorist attacks.

September 2004 – The arrest of a female terrorist sent by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades infrastructure in the Gaza Strip to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel, after she required medical treatment in an Israeli hospital

Suhad Fuzi Namar Aslan, 35, single and a resident of the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was burnt during her childhood from a gas cylinder explosion.

Under questioning, Aslan said that Uda Mahmud Uda Abu Samra, an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member, planned to send her for plastic surgery at Al-Muqaddas hospital in Jerusalem and to take advantage of her medical condition by placing an explosive belt under her bandages and dispatching her to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Abu Samra instructed Aslan to present a medical document from Al-Muqaddas hospital which confirmed that she had an appointment for a medical examination at the hospital, so she could arrange an entry permit to Israel. Aslan acquired the requested document and, after her entry was denied, she obtained a written medical report in English regarding her medical condition. After being denied entry for the second time by the Erez DCO (District Coordination Office), Aslan obtained an appointment to the hospital. Roughly one month after their initial attempts to receive an entry permit to Israel based upon her medical condition, Aslan received the awaited document.

Aslan left the Gaza Strip in August to undergo surgery in the Al-Muqaddas hospital in Jerusalem. She was operated on and hospitalized till September 9. She then stayed in the hospital an additional five days as per Abu Samra’s instructions. Aslan was to wait at the hospital until someone sent by Abu Samra would meet her and drive her to the site of the intended attack. Aslan was apprehended by security forces before she managed to carry out their plans.

August 2004 – The arrest of an al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade member who was about to leave for Egypt and from there enter Israel to carry out attacks. He used forged medical documents which alleged he suffered from testicular cancer, when in fact he was perfectly healthy.

Nabil Maher Halil Misri, a 22-year-old bachelor and resident of the Jebaliya refugee camp, confessed during questioning that, together with another al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member, Salem abd el-Rahman Salem Tabt, he planned to enter Israel using forged medical documents, when in fact he was perfectly healthy, for the purpose of carrying out terrorist attacks.

Misri said that at first, Tabt planned that he would go through the Erez crossing using a request for medical treatment in Israel. Although in fact Misri was completely healthy, Tabt managed to acquire documents stating that he suffered from testicular cancer. Furthermore, Misri said that Tabt used doctors for this purpose, bribing or threatening them to issue the medical documents.

A short time before arriving at the Erez crossing, Misri was supposed to take a pill that would make it appear to the people in the vicinity that he required urgent medical attention and in this way he would receive permission to go to Tel Hashomer hospital. Misri was supposed to study the details of his illness and its side effects so that he could authenticate the cover story and pass the inquiry by the security forces in case he was questioned at the Erez crossing. As Misri approached Tel Hashomer hospital, he was to inform Tabt and wait for some young men to pick him up in order to carry out the terrorist attack.

Tabt told Misri he succeeded in smuggling a Galil SAR rifle from the Gaza Strip to Israel, and that he should disguise himself as a soldier with a short haircut and a typical Israeli appearance and attack a Tel Aviv clubhouse.

When questioned, Misri said that after Tabt tried several times to submit the request for Misri’s treatment at Tel Hashomer hospital and was denied, they decided to try a different approach.

After the failure of their plan to transfer Misri into Israel through the Erez crossing using medical documents, Tabt decided to try to get him to Egypt using these same documents and from there to smuggle him back into Israel through the Sinai, to carry out a terrorist attack. To do so, Misri had to renew his medical documents. Hayeiri abd el-Karim Muhamed Sisi, who was apprehended with Misri, was also supposed to go to Egypt using medical treatment as a cover story. During his questioning, Misri elaborated that he was instructed to wait for Hayeiri after reaching the Egyptian side of the border, and that he would bring him to an apartment in Israel and dispatch him to carry out the terrorist attack.

Exploitation of medical facilities and vehicles for perpetration of terrorist attacks

In addition to using medical documents to smuggle terrorists into Israel, terrorist organizations attempt to use ambulances to transfer weapons and explosives into Israel. They do this under the assumption that ambulances and medical staff are not thoroughly examined at IDF checkpoints, thereby exploiting the instructions given to IDF soldiers regarding behavior towards the civilian population, especially the sick and children.

Terrorist organizations also use hospitals to cover terrorist activity and as shelter from the Israeli security forces, thereby jeopardizing the lives of the doctors and patients.

These terrorists  who view hospitals as a "safe haven" due to Israel’s humanitarian policy have also used them as bases of departure to and return from terrorist attacks.

Since the beginning of the confrontation with the Palestinians in September 2000 numerous examples have arisen of this terrorist group activity.

Prominent examples of medical facilities and vehicles used for terrorist attacks

February 2007 – The arrest of an Islamic Jihad terrorist in Bat Yam after attempting to carry out a suicide attack in Israel. He admitted that he prepared for the attack from within the Jenin hospital building.

Omar Ahmed abd el-Rahman Alrub, 25, an Islamic Jihad member from the village of Jilabun near Jenin, was apprehended in Bat Yam on February 20, 2007, in response to a specific warning of his intention to carry out a terrorist attack in Israel. In addition, an explosive bag he was carrying, which did not go off due to a technical malfunction, was seized.

During the investigation of the attempted attack, it became evident that Alrub was instructed by Islamic Jihad operatives inside the governmental hospital in Jenin, where he was recorded on a video camera reading his will aloud, shortly before his departure to carry out the terrorist attack.

Abu Alrub testified during ISA questioning that he joined the organization after meeting some wanted Islamic Jihad operatives in the Jenin hospital. This meeting came about by chance when he came to visit an ill relative. During this meeting he was even photographed with the weapon of one of the militants.

From this and other investigations, it became evident that the governmental hospital in Jenin is being used as a shelter by dozens of wanted Islamic Jihad and Tanzim terrorists from northern Samaria and that they store vast quantities of weapons and explosives there. The hospital is also used as a base for launching shooting attacks against IDF forces in the area and for the perpetration of suicide attacks.

April 2006 – The arrest of a senior Tanzim operative in Bethlehem who used the hospital to hide from the security forces

Arafat Abu Shaira, a senior Tanzim operative in Bethlehem, was wanted for his involvement in the operation of numerous terrorist squads as well as the direction of shooting attacks, placement of lethal explosive charges and the planning of suicide bombing attacks in Israel. Shaira used to hide inside the city’s hospital under the assumption that the security forces would not look for him there.

March 2006 – The production of the explosive belt on the rooftop of Refidia hospital in Nablus which was used to kill four Israeli citizens in the Kdumim suicide car bombing

The suicide attack was carried out on March 30, 2006, under the guidance of Tanzim operatives in Nablus, by Ahmed Masharqa, 24, from El Burej near Hebron. He hitchhiked a ride near Kdumim and, shortly before the car reached its destination, blew himself up, killing himself and the other four people in the car.

August 2004 – The arrest of the head of the  Military Tanzim in Bethlehem and another senior terrorist hiding out  in the Bethlehem French hospital

Adnan Muhamed Hasan Abiyat, the head of the Military Tanzim in Bethlehem, and Ratab Ali Hasan Nebahan, a senior operative of the Tanzim in Bethlehem, were apprehended in Bethlehem French hospital after hiding there for a prolonged period of time. They took advantage of the fact that the place had a special status, thereby placing the patients in jeopardy. The two were assisted by the hospital’s employees and also concealed firearms on the hospital premises, including two AK-47 assault rifles, three M-16 rifles, a MAG/M240 machine gun and a large amount of ammunition.

July 2004 – The arrest of a terrorist  who was recruited by the Tanzim in Bethlehem and involved in a  plan to  smuggle  an ambulance rigged with explosives into Jerusalem 

Muhamed Taleb Salam Darawi, 20, a member of the Palestinian National Security forces from Shawara village near Bethlehem, was recruited to a Tanzim cell in March 2004. Under questioning by the ISA, Darawi testified that, during a shift at the headquarters in Bethlehem, he met Faiz Fuaz Ayid Ahras a member of the Palestinian National Security Services from Rafah who was stationed in Bethlehem. Ahras, who was also a Tanzim member, requested Darawi to help him smuggle a suicide bomber with an explosive belt into Jerusalem using an ambulance. The ambulance was supposed to use the route bypassing the roadblocks situated between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Darawi spoke to two Tanzim operatives from the Bethlehem area, who were apprehended several months later, and told them that the ambulance, rigged with explosives, and a suicide bomber with an explosive belt were both standing by. Darawi requested the help of the two Tanzim operatives to smuggle the ambulance and the terrorist into Jerusalem. The plan failed when, after about a week, Darawi told Ahras that he had not found a way to smuggle the ambulance into Jerusalem.

November 2003 – The arrest of a chemist who supplied chemical compounds to the Hamas in Nablus using his hospital connections and ambulances to transport the substances

Rashad Tark Al Nimar, a chemistry PhD from Hawarah and the nephew of Faruq Qadumi, head of the political division of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) were apprehended on November 24, 2003. During his questioning Nimar confessed that he supplied chemical compounds to the military Hamas infrastructure in Nablus, taking advantage of his access to these substances through his work at hospitals in Nablus and Bethlehem. The chemicals were used in the production of explosive charges. He added that he used an ambulance to transport the chemical compounds to Hamas operatives. For example, he confessed to transporting two gallons of hydrogen peroxide to the ambulance company offices in Nablus, from which the operatives took the compounds.

In a different case he promised an operative that he would obtain a chemical substance in Bethlehem and send it to him in Nablus in an ambulance.

August 2003 – The arrest of the chief of the Tanzim in Balata refugee camp and of a Hamas operative in Refidia hospital in Nablus, after they set up a Tanzim command post on the hospital roof.

Atman Ibrahim Asad Unis, born in 1977 and the chief of the Tanzim in Balata refugee camp, together with Wafad Bani Audah a Hamas operative, were apprehended on August 26, 2003 by Israeli security forces in Nablus after they set up a Tanzim command post on the hospital roof.

May 2003 – The arrest of a suicide terrorist affiliated with the PFLP, who attempted to slip into Qalqiliya from Nablus in an ambulance with the objective of carrying out a suicide attack in Israel.

Amar Naif Amar Haluan, born in 1985 in the village of Dejan near Nablus, was apprehended on May 13, 2003 in Qalqiliya on his way to carry out a suicide attack in Petah Tiqva. Under questioning, Haluan said that he attempted to leave Nablus and enter Qalqiliya with Zuhir Abed Jian Hamdan, a mother of eight. After they discovered that the roads were closed, they drove to the Alutani hospital and obtained an ambulance. They drove in the ambulance to the Qalqiliya roadblock with Zuhir wearing the explosive belt, but they were not allowed to pass because of IDF activity in the area. On the following day they met in the hospital with the intention of trying again to get through the roadblock using the ambulance. In the end, they drove to Qalqiliya using standard transportation and Haluan was arrested.

March 2002 – The arrest of a Tanzim member who worked as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent. Explosive belts and charges intended for Tanzim members in Ramallah were found in his ambulance.

Aslam Jibril, born in 1971 and a resident of Balata refugee camp near Nablus, worked as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent. He was apprehended on March 27, 2002 at an IDF checkpoint near Ramallah driving an ambulance containing an explosive belt and charges which were to have been transferred to Tanzim operatives in Ramallah. In addition, in the ambulance were children pretending to be patients. The explosive belt was discovered under a stretcher on which lay an ill child. The child’s family was present with him in the ambulance during the incident.

October 2001 – The arrest of a Hamas member from Qalqiliya who worked as an ambulance driver and acted as a courier between Hamas headquarters in different cities

Nidal Nazal, a Hamas member from Qalqiliya and the brother of Nasser Nazal, one of the Hamas headquarter commanders in the city, was apprehended in October 2001. He exploited his relative freedom of movement between the Sharon area cities as an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent to act as a courier between Hamas headquarters in different cities.