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Israel arrests six Hamas ‘terror cell’ members

Israeli security forces have arrested six members of the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas

Published: Updated:

Israeli security forces have arrested six members of the Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas for allegedly planning to “kidnap and murder an Israeli” citizen, officials said on Thursday.

The Shin Bet internal security agency, which announced the arrests, said the cell’s activities were proof that Hamas was intent on escalating the three month wave of near-daily Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

The six - three from east Jerusalem and three others from the West Bank city of Hebron - were arrested in December, the army said in a statement.

“The members of the terror cell plotted to kidnap and murder an Israeli citizen... (and) planned to use this kidnapping to negotiate the release of Palestinian prisoners,” the army said.

It named the group’s leader as Hebron resident Maher Kawasme, 36, and identified two other suspects as Ziad Abu Haduan, 20, and Amar Rajbi, 22, both from Jerusalem.

“Kawasme was previously convicted for plotting a terror attack on behalf of the Hamas,” the statement said.

According to the statement the three suspects from Jerusalem were arrested separately.

After their detention, the other three suspects bought “chemical materials in an attempt to manufacture explosives and carry out a terror attack,” it added.

Shin Bet said the arrests indicated that Hamas was planning to “execute major attacks... in order to turn the latest wave of terror into a violent intifada,” or uprising.

A justice ministry spokesman told AFP that Abu Haduan and Rajbi - who are cousins - were charged in the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday for “aiding an enemy during war” and for seeking to buy arms and having contact with a “foreign agent.”

Twenty-two Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have been killed in Palestinian attacks including stabbings, car ramming and gunfire targeting security forces and civilians since Oct. 1.

At the same time, 142 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most while carrying out attacks.

News of the arrests came as the Hamas chief in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, vowed on Thursday that his movement will pursue the intifada against Israeli occupation “until the land is freed.”