(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JNS.org) Israel’s Beersheba District Court on Tuesday sentenced 24-year-old Muhammad Abu Draz, an operative of Hamas’s Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, to 15½ years in prison after convicting him of membership in a terrorist organization, conspiracy to commit an act of terror, attempted murder, several illegal arms offenses, and a series of national security offenses.
Draz was convicted and sentenced as part of a plea bargain that his defense attorney had negotiated with Israel. A resident of the Gaza Strip, Draz was apprehended by security forces during last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, near the entrance to a tunnel dug close to a Gaza City kindergarten. He was heavily armed and carried an explosive device, which he unsuccessfully attempted to detonate when the soldiers approached him.
It is believed that Draz and other Hamas operatives were instructed to ambush Israeli soldiers clearing terror tunnels, with the aim of either killing them or abducting them to be used as bargaining chips in future prisoner-exchange negotiations with Israel.
According to the indictment, Draz initially joined Hamas in 2003, when he was a minor. In 2010, he joined Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, where he received training in urban warfare and explosives. He also learned how to infiltrate the border, ambush Israel forces, and use Hamas’s grid of terror tunnels to abduct Israel soldiers.
“The defendant’s actions are grave as they placed Israeli soldiers in serious danger. It was only thanks to the soldiers’ training that they were able to escape heavy loss of life over the defendant and his partners’ actions,” the court said in its ruling.