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Islamic Jihad terror attacks in Beer Sheva thwarted

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Israel’s Shin Bet security agency announced yesterday that it had uncovered an Islamic Jihad plot to carry out a terror attack at a wedding venue and kidnap a soldier in the southern city of Beer Sheva.

The Shin Bet said that Mahmoud Yusuf Hassin Abu Taha, a resident of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, was arrested on 21 September as he attempted to enter Israel via the Erez crossing for supposed business purposes. When interrogated, Abu Taha revealed that he had been recruited by a senior Islamic Jihad operative in Gaza, to establish the infrastructure for a terror cell and carry out attacks.

Abu Taha subsequently recruited three other people. Two were residing in Israel illegally, while one living in Tel Sheva, originally from Deir al-Balah in Gaza, was living in Israel with temporary resident status through marriage.

Under direction from Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the group planned to attack a wedding venue in Beer Sheva, where two of them worked. The plan involved throwing grenades at guests on the dance floor and opening fire with automatic weapons hidden in rubbish bins nearby. The cell also considered placing explosives under guests’ tables.

The cell also intended to kidnap a soldier from the Beer Sheva bus station, a major terminal for those in military service. Abu Taha received funds to rent an apartment in which to hide and then murder the abducted soldier. The plan was to then bury the victim and take his belongings to Gaza to use as bargaining chips to secure concessions from Israel.

The four-member cell has been charged with a variety of offences, including contacting a foreign agent and conspiring to assist an enemy.

A Shin Bet statement said that the case “illustrates once again the efforts of the terrorists in Gaza to carry out murderous attacks on Israeli territory”.