(Communicated by Israeli security sources)
During an IDF, ISA and Israel Police operation in Hebron, two commanders of the militant wing of the Hamas, Murad Qawasme and Omar Himoni, were killed and the third most senior Hamas operative, Iyad Ibben Shhidam was injured and arrested.
- Iyad Abu Shhidam: Born in 1975, resident of Wadi Abu Katilla near Hebron.
- Murad Qawasme: Born in 1979, resident of Wadi Abu Katilla near Hebron was serving a prison sentence for Hamas militant activity and was released on 29/01/04 as part of the agreement with Hezbollah in which prisoners were released by Israel.
- Omar Himoni: Born in 1983, resident of Wadi Abu Katilla near Hebron.
During the questioning of Ahmed Qawasme, head of the Hamas militant wing in Hebron who was arrested on 13 October 2004, it emerged that prior to his arrest the three men in question operated under his command. Ahmed Qawasme, who had been wanted by Israeli security forces for two years, was responsible for giving the final authorization for the recruitment of operatives and suicide bombers for the Hamas militant wing. The three in question, Iyad, Murad and Omar, acted as secret operatives, who met other operatives with their faces covered at all times and were referred to only by aliases. The three began behaving as wanted operatives after the arrest of Ahmed Qawasme because they were certain that they would be exposed by Qawasme under questioning. Within the framework of activity by the IDF and the Israel Security Agency to thwart Ahmed Qawasme’s terrorist network, and to apprehend the three men in question, close to 400 Hamas operatives were arrested, including cell members, suicide bombers, weapons suppliers and collaborators.
The Hamas headquarters in Hebron, headed by Qawasme, operated a number of independent cells simultaneously. Each cell was instructed to carry out shooting attacks in the Hebron region, but also to help the Hamas headquarters to recruit suicide bombers, prepare them for attacks and film them, and also to purchase arms and materials for the preparation of explosive devices:
- A cell headed by Faiz Mask in the center of Hebron.
- A cell headed by Hazam Abu Nagma in the center of Hebron.
- Two cells headed by Mashur Rajbi in the Israeli zone of Hebron.
- A cell headed by Masa’ab Hashlamoun in the northern part Hebron.
It should be noted that all the cell members are currently under arrest.
Terror activities of the Faiz Mask cell:
The Faiz Mask cell acted under the responsibility of Ahmed Qawasme during 2003. This cell recruited Yusuf Zaitoun (now under arrest), prepared and filmed him prior to carrying out a suicide attack. The original plan was to carry out the attack on a bus arriving at Kiryat Arba. The target was later changed to Beer Sheva or Jerusalem, but Yusuf Zaitoun decided not to carry out the attack.
Malek Nasser Aladin, born in 1963, was recruited in order to carry out a triple suicide attack in which terrorists were to disguise themselves as soldiers who were to explode at the Beer Sheva train station. The terrorist attack was not carried out because the two additional suicide bombers recruited by the Mashur cell changed their minds in the last minute.
Iyad Abu Shhidam and Omar Himoni were the chief engineers behind these attacks, participated in the planning of the terrorist attacks and also were supposed to provide the explosive belts.
Attempted suicide attack in the Kafit cafe in Jerusalem:
Due to the failure of the planned Beer Sheva terrorist attack, the terrorist network began planning an alternative attack in Jerusalem. For this purpose an operative by the name of Alaa Kafishe, was recruited. He was a member of the same cell as Hazam Abu Nagma, and served as a liaison between the Hebron cell and a cell from the Jerusalem area headed by Ibrahim Halabya, a resident of Abu Dis. The terrorist attack was planned by Ahmed Qawasme and the wanted operatives who provided the explosive belt and a pistol that were delivered by Faiz Mask to Malek Nasser Aladin. The wanted operatives instructed Malek on how to use the explosive belt and how to use the pistol in order to get passed the security guard in order to carry out the attack inside the cafe.
Alaa Kafishe drove Malek Nasser Aladin to Jerusalem with the explosive belt and the pistol. Malek joined the Jerusalem cell and went to the Kafit cafe to carry out the terrorist attack. Malek changed his mind and at the last moment he abandoned the explosive belt and the pistol and returned to Hebron. That same night, 15 July 2004, Malek was killed during an attempt to arrest him by the IDF and the ISA. Alaa Kafishe was also arrested along with Ibrahim Halbiye’s Jerusalem cell.
The Faiz Mask cell also carried out a shooting attack on the Hebron bypass road in July 2004. In addition the cell collected intelligence for further planned terrorist attacks, acquisition of weapons and recruitment of suicide bombers. Yusuf Zaitoun was arrested with the Faiz Mask cell following the questioning of Ahmad Qawasme.
Terror activities of the Mashur Rajbi cells:
Mashur Rajbi was recruited and instructed by the wanted terrorists, and he in turn recruited two cells that carried out numerous attacks in the Hebron region. One of the cells headed by Alaa Ragbi carried out five shooting attacks in the Hebron region, while the second cell carried out two hand-grenade attacks in Hebron itself.
Mashur’s cells also took part in recruiting suicide terrorists for their network. Two of them were meant to carry out the abovementioned suicide attack with Malek Nasser Aladin in Beer Sheva.
The cells operatubg under Mashur’s command were thwarted following mass arrests which included the arrest of Mashur Rajbi, operatives of the two cells, the suicide attackers who had been recruited, as well as the logistical apparatus, namely, sponsors and weapons.
Terror activities of the Masa’ab Hashlamun cell:
Masa’ab Hashalmun, head of the cell, had been imprisoned in the Ketziot prison compound together with Mahmud Qawasme, brother of the wanted terrorist Murad Qawasme. Soon after their release as part of a prisoner release deal, the two created a Hamas cell along with other operatives.
Masa’ab used Mahmud Qawasme to transfer information about the cell operatives to Murad Qawasme, and since then routinely communicated with the wanted terrorists to plan the cell’s operations, sponsorship and acquisition of weapons. The cell was trained to carry out shooting attacks, and indeed carried one out on August 23, 2004, on the trans-Judea road next to Telem, in which a child was lightly wounded.
Double suicide attack in Beer Sheva:
At the beginning of August 2004, Masa’ab recruited three terrorists: Nasim Ja’abri, born in 1982, resident of Harath Ja’abri, Hebron; Ahmed Qawasme, born in 1978, resident of Ein Sara, Hebron; adn Badia’ Rajbi, born in 1981, resident of Jabel Gohar, Hebron – currently detained.
Nasim Ja’abri was sent to gather intelligence ahead of an attack on a bus bound for Kiryat Arba, but on his return he realized the difficulty involved in entering Kiryat Arba and that the attack would not succeed in hitting enough people there. Ahmed went to work several times with his brother in Beer Sheba, where he studied the area and selected an appropriate target.
Aug. 27- Lacking a sufficient number of suicide belts, it was decided that only two of the three members of the terrorist cell would carry out the attack.
Around Aug. 29 – Iyad Abu Shhidam and Omar Himuni finished preparing the suicide belts and told Qawasme of their intention to carry out a bombing attack.
Aug. 30 – Mas’ab received the suicide belts and weapons that the terrorists were to be filmed with. Next, Mas’ab told Mahmoud Qawasme, Basel Himouni, and Muhammad Qawasme, the three members of his cell, about the suicide bombers that he had recruited, and sent them to take control of an apartment in Hebron known to be a brothel. The apartment was to be used to film and conceal the suicide bombers. The three cell members carried out Mas’ab’s orders, and filmed the suicide bombers laden with Hamas paraphernalia and weapons, reading wills they had prepared ahead of time. Ahmed and Nasim spent the night in the apartment.
Aug. 31 –
0600: Mas’ab met the wanted operatives and returned to them the suicide belts and weapons that were used for the filming. He then left to collect Ahmed Qawasme and Nasim Ja’abri.
0700: Mas’ab met with Nasim and Ahmed. Nasim gave Mas’ab a note with the name of Badi’ Rajbi, so that the suspects could recruit Badi’ for another suicide bombing. Next, Ahmed and Nasim met the wanted operatives for the first time, who instructed the suicide bombers on how to detonate the belts, and prepared them for the attack. The suspects also camouflaged the belts using plaster picture frames, so that they would not be discovered during the trip to Beer Sheva. The suicide bombers were then dispatched with 300 NIS in travel expenses. Ahmed and Nasim reached Beer Sheva on a bus transporting illegal residents.
14:30 – Two buses exploded in Beer Sheva, killing 16 Israelis and injuring 90 more.
In all, the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in Hebron was performing several tasks at once – carrying out shooting and grenade attacks, as well as planning complex suicide attacks. The cell used a great deal of weapons and tirelessly recruited suicide bombers, until they reached a point where there were more suicide bombers than suicide belts.
The cell preferred to carry out attacks in Jerusalem and Beer Sheva rather than in the Hebron area, since it was difficult to penetrate the Jewish community of Hebron, and because the population there was significantly smaller. Nevertheless, the cell continued to carry out shooting and grenade attacks to maintain a steady rhythm of terror attacks in the area. The cell concentrated their efforts on attacking cities in the heart of Israel. Beer Sheva was targeted because it was relatively easy for them to penetrate and gather intelligence on potential targets. The bombing attack took place one month after the suicide bombers were recruited.