A months-long joint operation of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), the Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces has exposed an extensive Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist network in Judea and Samaria, the Shin Bet announced Wednesday.

The network had operated under the leadership of senior PFLP members, who directed the attacks carried out by the various cells.

PFLP members were responsible for the bombing near Dolev in August that killed Rina Shnerb, 17, and left her father and brother seriously wounded. The head of the cell that perpetrated that attack, Samer Arbid of Ramallah, who has already spent time in prison for militant activity on behalf of the organization, was among the PFLP members arrested during the Israeli operation.

Arbid enlisted the other members of the cell that carried out the August attack, and personally built and remotely detonated the bomb. He was arrested along with Yazan Maghamas, 24, who was involved in several other attacks, and Qassem Shibli, 25, from the “terror village” of Kobar, who also carried out a number of shooting attacks.

Upon interrogation, members of the Judea and Samaria network revealed that it was behind a number of shooting attacks and was in the process of planning large-scale attacks, which were to have been carried out in the near future. During the operation, Israeli security personnel arrested some 50 PFLP members, including senior ones, and seized a large cache of weapons the terrorists had been hiding.

The Shin Bet seized assault rifles, handguns, silencers and various types of fertilizer intended for use in the construction of explosive devices, as well as stockpiles of ammunition. Radios and batteries, to be used to detonate explosives remotely, were also found. Many of the weapons had been stored in the home of a relative of Arbid.

Some of the weapons seized by the Israel Security Agency and other security forces following interrogations of PFLP terrorist suspects. Credit: Israel Security Agency.

The detainees provided the Shin Bet with information about the attacks they had been planning, and also detailed the planning and execution of the August attack near Dolev. Cell members told investigators that they had begun collecting intelligence a few weeks before the attack and had visited the site of the attack several times to scout the territory. Arbid reviewed and approved the final plan.

The interrogation also exposed additional acts of terrorism for which the PFLP was responsible, including a shooting attack on an Israeli bus near the settlement of Ofra in December 2017 and a shooting attack on an Israeli car near Ariel in March of this year.

Many of the detainees have been indicted on serious charges, with more indictments expected to be filed.

A senior Shin Bet official said that the security forces’ intelligence and investigative work had “thwarted terrorist attacks slated to be carried out in the near future.”

According to the official, if the Shin Bet and the rest of the security forces had not managed to put their hands on the cell members, the planned attacks would have claimed numerous Israeli lives.

“The Shin Bet investigation exposed the real and present danger from Popular Front activity, as well as the security danger from the Popular Front’s ‘organizational’ activity. The amount of weapons seized and the information we gained in the interrogation highlight how dangerous this network is and how prepared [they are] to carry out more, deadly terrorist attacks,” said a spokesman for the agency.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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