Terrorist (illustration)
Terrorist (illustration)Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) revealed Wednesday that a terror attack had been foiled in December whereby terrorists had attempted to build a military cell in Judea and Samaria with the specific intent to kidnap Israelis. 

The twist: the terror cell was operated by terrorists who were already imprisoned. The terrorist operatives were in the preliminary planning stages of the operation when they were apprehended, according to the Shin Bet. 

The mastermind behind the operation was Mohammed Bal, 24, who has been held in the Eshel prison since 2008. Bal tried to recruit two other men from the Judea and Samaria regions for the kidnapping.

One was Ali Haroub, 21, from Dura/Hevron. Haroub requested imprisonment in Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority; he was arrested on charges of being involved in a different terror cell, that had been engaged in planning a series of Molotov cocktail attacks. 

Bal also approached Ragheb Salah al-Din, aged 53. Salah al-Din is a resident Hizma / Ramallah and a former terrorist for Palestine Liberation Front (PLO). He was apprehended in May 2012 after he admitted to three attempted abductions of Israeli citizens.

The three men confessed to their involvement upon an interrogation. An investigation revealed that the terrorists intended to operate in partnership with the highest echelons of the Holy Warriors Brigades (Arabic: Kateeb Al-Mujahideen). The Shin Bet submitted charges to the Be'er Sheva District Court against the men, on counts of membership and activity in an unlawful organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and contact with a foreign agent.

According to the plan, Bal would approach a contact to link the cells. That contact was Gaza-based Amr Mostafa Khalil Qassem, aged 29. Qassem acted as a middleman between the prisoners and the terror group, recruiting them from prison and reporting back to other high-ranking officials. 

The Shin Bet noted that the Holy Warrior Brigades is a terrorist organization, a more Islamist breakaway from the Fatah-backed Al-Aqsa Brigades. Gaza resident Asaad Attia Ibrahim Abu Sharia, 36, overtook leadership of the organization in 2007 after his brother Omar was apprehended by security forces. 

The organization, which maintains close ties with Hamas, has been responsible for carrying out a number of terror attacks in the past several years against Israelis - including firing rockets on Israel, firing at IDF forces near the Gaza security fence, and more. The group also provides terrorist training, arms smuggling assistance and funding, and more. In practice, the Holy Warrior Brigades is a Hamas satellite. 

The Shin Bet has prevented the organization from successfully carrying out attacks before, the report reveals. In May 2012, the ISA arrested the Ramzi terror cell, which also planned abduction of Israelis whilst behind bars. In January 2013, the Shin Bet arrested four Judea and Samaria residents - some of them Egyptian students - who were recruited to the organization and were undergoing military-style training to attack IDF soldiers and Israeli citizens in the region.

The news comes a day after an apparent kidnapping attempt just north of Jerusalem, in which a Palestinian Arab man attempted to drag a 14-year-old Israeli girl from her car near the town of Adam. Together, the incidents highlight the ongoing motivation of terror groups to abduct Israeli citizens, having noted the past success of such operations in freeing terrorist prisoners.