(Communicated by Israeli security sources)

In a joint IDF, ISA and Israeli Police operation on April 14, 2006, security forces arrested two Hamas terrorists as they attempted to infiltrate Israel through the Israeli-Egyptian border.

Razek Ahmed Muhammed Shabaan and Jama’a Ibrahim Issa Azam were identified in the area of Mt. Harif near the border, carrying two handguns, fragmentation grenades and $2,300 in cash.

The two men stated in their questioning that they intended to establish a terror cell inside Israel and in Judea and Samaria composed of additional Hamas terrorists originating from the Gaza Strip. The objective of this cell, under the guidance of senior Hamas members in the Gaza Strip, would be to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

Suliman Mussa Suliman Natzatzra, 35, a resident of Tiebe who was recruited by an illegal Palestinian worker to transport the two terrorists to their destination was also arrested. The illegal Palestinian worker was arrested on April 17 in the Negev area.

Shabaan and Azam were arrested only two weeks after another Hamas terrorist from the Gaza Strip, Sami Mathuli Jabar Hafi, was arrested in Tulkarm on March 29, 2006, after being dispatched to the West Bank by senior Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip, also in an attempt to found a Hamas terror cell there.

Razek Shabaan, 33, a resident of Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, was released from an Israeli jail in 2004, after being imprisoned in 1999 for his involvement with the Hamas terror organization and the planning of Israeli kidnappings. During the time of his imprisonment Shabaan met many terror operatives from Judea and Samaria. In his questioning Shabaan stated that Jama’a Azam, 38, also a resident of Jabaliya, offered him to assist the Hamas organization by using his connections in Judea and Samaria.

Shabaan agreed and met with Iman Mantzur, head of the Hamas terror organization in Jabaliya, who instructed him to leave to Ramallah and along with other Hamas members from the Gaza Strip, establish a terror cell that will kidnap a soldier. Shabaan was instructed to rent an apartment that would be used to hide the kidnapped soldier.

In order to carry out the plan and reinforce his connections in Judea and Samaria, Shabaan contacted Hassan Haloa, a Hamas terrorist from Ramallah who is currently serving his sentence in the Kziot facility. Shabaan contacted Haloa by concealing a letter in the lining of a pair of pants that were transferred to Haloa during a visit to the prison by his family. In the letter Shabaan requested Haloa’s assistance in his plans.

Shabaan also stated in his inquiry that Mantzur explained that to get to Ramallah Shabaan would need to infiltrate Israel through the Sinai desert with Jama’a Azam and arrive at the Israeli city of Be’er  Sheva, where they were to meet an illegal Palestinian worker who was recruited to aid them inside Israel. The worker, Shabaan and Azam, were to locate places inside Israel, collect intelligence about them and later carry out terror attacks there.

Jama’a Azam stated that Mantzur told him that the instructions to found a Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria and inside Israel originate from the Hamas organization leadership. In a meeting with Ahmad Andur, head of the Hamas organization in the northern Gaza Strip, Azam was told that he was to take in Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip who would be sent to him in order to carry out terror attacks. Their particular objective would be to kidnap soldiers and use them as hostages to negotiate the release of prisoners.

Jama’a also stated in his questioning that he had been involved in numerous terror attacks as part of the Hamas organization. These include the detonation of explosive devices, launching projectile rockets towards the city of Sderot as well as other communities and recruiting new terrorists as he operated as the head of a Hamas cell.

As noted, Shabaan and Azam were arrested two weeks after the arrest of Sami Hafi, 25, also of the Gaza Strip on March 29th in Tulkarm. Hafi left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing and infiltrated Israel through the Israeli-Egyptian Sinai border. Hafi stated in his questioning that he was recruited to the Hamas organization several months prior to his arrest. He stated that under the guidance of Rafat Salmaan, a senior Hamas terrorist in Jabaliya who had previously dispatched other terrorists into Israel, he arrived in Tulkarm to found a base for Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip from which they would carry out attacks. He was also to provide logistic aid to them.

Hafi added that Salmaan instructed him to secure a regular job in Tulkarm. He explained that due to the current political situation Hafi would not receive missions immediately but instead would have to wait in Tulkarm, recruit more members from Gaza and prepare for future attacks.