A senior Palestinian Authority official who was once granted amnesty by Israel following a history of terrorism has been accused of involvement in a series of shooting attacks near the Israeli town of Beit El, north of Jerusalem.
In late February, Zakaria Zubeidi – a senior official in the PA’s Prisoners Ministry and a former leader of the Fatah party’s terrorist operations in the Jenin district – was arrested, along with Israeli-Arab attorney Tarek Barghout in Ramallah in connection with what Israeli security forces called “serious and current terrorist activities”.
During the arrest, police seized a vehicle owned by Barghout, who has often represented terrorists charged in Israeli courts. Authorities also seized an M-16 during the raid.
On Monday, the Shin Bet revealed that Zubeidi and Barghout were arrested in connection with a string of shooting attacks north of Jerusalem, and that intel information gathered on the two suspects had linked them to the attacks.
The two were arrested while in the midst of planning another terror attack, the Shin Bet said, by a joint operation of the Shin Bet internal security agency, the IDF, and Yamam special police force.
According to the Shin Bet investigation, Zubeidi and Barghout carried out two shooting attacks on Israeli buses near the town of Beit El.
The two allegedly used Zubeidi’s personal vehicle – which had been provided to him by the Palestinian Authority in his capacity as a senior prisoner affairs official – during the attacks and during reconnaissance operations.
The shooting attacks include the December 27th 2018 attack on a bus en route to the town of Pisagot, south of Beit El. No injuries were reported in the attack.
The pair also opened fire at an Israeli bus on January 5th 2019 in the Beit El area. The two were in the midst of planning an additional attack when they were arrested on February 27th 2019.
The Shin Bet revealed Monday details from its investigation, including details on how the two planned and carried out the attacks. In preparation for the attacks, the two went over the chosen target areas, carried out observation of potential targets and gathered other information.
Barghout confessed, the Shin Bet said, to a November 19th 2016 shooting attack on an Israeli police car at the Zeitim checkpoint near Jerusalem. The police car was damaged, but no injuries were reported.
"That a senior Palestinian Authority Prisoners Ministry official and an Israeli attorney who worked for the Prisoners Ministry carried out severe terrorist attacks while using an official PA vehicle is very grave. Intelligence and operational activity by the security forces immediately after the attacks and in the ensuing weeks, including in Ramallah, is what led to the exposure of the cell and the foiling of other terrorist attacks in the future," a senior Shin Bet official said Monday, according to the Shin Bet's announcement.
Zubeidi, who once was on Israel’s most-wanted list over his leadership of the Jenin region’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, accepted a 2007 Israeli offer of amnesty in exchange for renouncing terrorism. Zubeidi accepted the deal, which was revoked in December 2011.
Zubeidi made headlines in 2004, when a female Israeli admirer, Tali Fahima, traveled to Jenin to serve as a human shield for him. Fahima, who was latered jailed for her aid to the terrorist leader, converted into Islam in 2010.