The Shin Bet arrested four individuals last month suspected of planning to carry out a large scale terror attack in an events hall in Be’er Sheva and kidnapping an IDF soldier, it was cleared for publication Thursday.
According to the indictment issued against the four, they planned to throw grenades into a crowd of dancers celebrating at the Narnia events hall and to use weapons they would hide in trash cans ahead of the attack before fleeing the scene. They also considered detonating pipe bombs concealed under the dining tables.
Moreover, they began accumulating funds to perpetrate a separate attack involving the abduction of an IDF soldier from the city’s central bus station who they intended to kill and use his remains to solicit concessions from Israel.
During the investigation of the four conspirators, one of whom is a resident of the bedouin town of Tel as-Sabi in the Negev and the other three illegal aliens from Gaza, interrogators discovered that the planned attack was the brainchild of the Gaza-based Islamic Jihad organization.
The suspects, two of whom worked in the events hall which they intended to strike, carefully plotted their attack as they collected information about their target.
The members of the cell were arrested before they managed to acquire the necessary weapons for implementing the attack. However, the investigation revealed that they had located and rented an apartment in the area in which they could plan the assault and in which they intended to murder the kidnapped soldier. In an effort to familiarize themselves with hall and inflict the maximum number of casualties, two of the suspects had carefully scouted the venue ahead of the attack.
The ringleader of the suspects, all of whom were arrested on September 21 by the the Shin Bet in cooperation with the Negev Police Central Unit, was identified as Mahmoud Yusuf Hasin Abu-Taha from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza who had entered Israel via the Erez Crossing for commercial purposes.
He was recruited into the cell by Wael Abu-Taha, a senior official in the Islamic Jihad movement who lives in Gaza, when the latter asked him to establish a military infrastructure and coordinate a terror attack.
In May, Mahmoud and Wael presided over plans for the attack’s execution in the hall and, to that end, checked a number of entrances to the complex. It was decided that Shafik would enable the attackers to enter, including Mahmoud who was also scheduled to work on the day marked for the bloodletting.
During a meeting between with Wael, Mahmoud was instructed to shift his focus onto kidnapping a soldier rather than the Narnia explosions.
Indictments for crimes against the security of the state were also issued at the Be’er Sheva District Court against 39-year-old Ahmad Taysir Abd Elrahman Abu-Taha, 55-year-old Shafik Hamad Ahmad Abu-Taha, also from Gaza, and 40-year-old Hani Abu-Amra who resided in the Negev.
The four stand accused of, among other things, establishing contact with a foreign agent, divulging intelligence to enemies, fraud, residing in Israel without legal documentation and activities with unlawful organizations.
According to the indictment, Wael suggested last March that Mahmoud carry out an attack at the Narnia hall together with Shafik who were both working there as waiters.
As part of the kidnapping plot, Wael ordered Mahmoud to orchestrate the abduction and murder of two or three Jewish Israeli civilians who would then be buried and be used to force Israel to acquiesce to various demands. Wael promised to give Mahmoud a new car and build him a new house in return for the kidnapping.
Soon after Mahmoud returned to Israel from Gaza, he observed the Be’er Sheva Central Bus Station and reported to his superior in Gaza that there were drug users in the area who could constitute easy targets. However, Wael stated his preference for the abduction of a police officer or a soldier in order to bring about the release of convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Mahmoud also received the chilling instructions from Wael to rent a ground-floor apartment to which the kidnapped could be taken and then to smoke Hashish, drink alcohol and photograph himself next to the victim and beat him to death using a hammer before burying him.