Hamas terrorists in Gaza
Hamas terrorists in Gaza Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash 90

The Israeli Security Agency (ISA), in cooperation with the IDF and Israel Police, arrested in December a Hamas terror cell composed of Arab residents of Hevron and Jerusalem. 

The six-member terror cell was planning to kidnap and murder and Israeli and use his body as a bargaining chip for the release of terrorist prisoners. 

The attack was purposely meant to be similar to the one conducted in June 2014, in which three Israeli teens were kidnapped from Gush Etzion Junction and later murdered. 

ISA investigators revealed that the terrorists had begun advanced preparations for the attack, including a hideout for the body of the kidnapped victims. 

Terrorists (left-to-right) Ziad Abu-Haduan, Amar Rajbi and Maher Qawasmeh
Terrorists (left-to-right) Ziad Abu-Haduan, Amar Rajbi and Maher Qawasmeh Shin Bet

Ziad Abu-Haduan, a 20-year-old resident of Jerusalem's Old City, was one of the leaders of the cell. He was released from prison in October 2015 after being convicted violent activity on the Temple Mount. Shortly after his release, he returned to his Hamas operations. 

Similarly, Maher Qawasmeh, a 36-year-old resident of Hevron, who headed the cell, served two years in Israeli jail for his involvement in planning terror attacks for Hamas. He is part of the same Hevron clan as the ringleaders in the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers last year.

Terror cell's prepared hiding place
Terror cell's prepared hiding place ISA spokesperson

According to the ISA 's investigation, the cell held meetings over the last year in Hevron where they discussed conducting various attacks, before settling on the abduction and murder of an Israeli. 

Over the last several months, the cell explored caves and dug up plots of land near Hevron with the intention of hiding the body there. 

The terror suspects admitted they planned to carry out the abduction using two vehicles - with Old City resident Amar Rajabi, 22, driving one of the vehicles and using his command of the Hebrew language to lure an Israeli. 

They planned to kill the Israeli afterwards and to bury his body in the prepared location with the intention of using him as bait to negotiate for the release of Hamas terror operatives. 

It was also revealed that even after the arrest of the three Arab suspects from Jerusalem, cell leader Qawasmeh continued to work with the remaining members to produce an explosive for a bomb attack. 

The Shin Bet noted "this affair reaffirms Hamas' desire to conduct serious terror attacks, even at the present time, despite internal struggles in the organization, in order to inflame the latest terror wave into a violent intifada."