Israeli officer on Temple Mount (file)
Israeli officer on Temple Mount (file)Flash 90

The Israel Police, working with the Shin Bet security service, have nabbed over a dozen members of a Hamas-linked terrorist cell in Jerusalem.

The senior members of the cell funded and directed terrorist activity in the capital city, including attacks on Jews on the Temple Mount. One of their primary goals was to boost support for Hamas among Arab residents of Jerusalem.

Among the detainees are members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, an extremist group whose leaders have openly called to physically prevent Jews from accessing the Temple Mount.

The Islamic Movement was found to have been funding a project on the Temple Mount through which followers were paid to remain present at the holy site. The project, which was disguised as a learning initiative, aimed to bolster the Islamist presence on the Temple Mount, and was found to have led to increased tensions, particularly during Jewish holidays.

Evidence has been found linking the project to Hamas; among other things, a video found online shows Hamas head in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh declaring that he will push forward funding for the program.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place on earth according to Judaism, and is the former site of the First and Second Temples described in the Bible. The site is currently home to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Police have identified several of the more senior Hamas members who were arrested. Among them are:

Rami Zachariya Ibrahim Barakeh, 39, of the neighborhood of Tzur Baher in Jerusalem. He previously served time in prison for involvement in Hamas activity in Jerusalem, following a 2010 arrest.

Khalil Atiya Mahmoud Azawi, 42, of the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem. He, too, previously served time in prison for Hamas activity, after being arrested in 2007.

Majed Rajeb Mahmoud Ashour Juaba, 33, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem. He was released from prison in 2012 after serving time for holding office in a terrorist organization, and immediately returned to terrorism. Among other things, he transferred money from Gaza to Hamas terrorists in Jerusalem.

Haitham Rajeb Mahmoud Ashour Juaba, 31, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem and a brother of Majed Rajeb Mahmoud Ashour Juaba. Haitham Juaba was a central figure in Hamas activity on the Temple Mount.

Alongside the arrest operation, police shut down offices found to be connected to funding or otherwise supporting Hamas in Jerusalem. Among them were two groups based in Arab cities in northern Israel: Amarat Al-Aqsa, and Al-Quds Lefitah.

The involvement of Arab citizens of Israel in terrorist activity is particularly serious, Shin Bet sources said.

The sources noted that Hamas’ non-military activity has been found to be strongly linked to violent terrorist attacks, with Hamas cells recruiting terrorists and collecting money to fund attacks.

A Hamas-linked cell that operated on the Temple Mount was exposed in March 2013, and its members arrested. The cell was found to have been behind a firebomb attack in which several police officers were injured. Terrorists involved in the cell admitted to having used children to bring bomb materials to the holy site.