A computer engineer from Gaza was sentenced Wednesday to 9 years’ imprisonment as part of a plea deal for committing serious offences against national security.
The 23-year-old Gaza resident Maagad Ben Juwad Oydeh, also a producer of the show Arab Idol (Gaza’s equivalent of American Idol), was sentenced by the Be’er Sheva District Court after being indicted in 2012.
According to the indictment, until 2014 Oydeh hacked into video cameras belonging to the IDF, the police and the Road Safety Authority.
Oydeh also compromised IDF drones hovering over Gaza. This enabled Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commanders in the strip to view their video feeds and study the location of civilians and IDF personnel in real-time as it was firing rockets into Israel from the enclave.
In 2013 Oydeh hacked into Israeli Cellcom and Orange cell phones and PA Jawwal firm cellphones to help locate Israeli moles within Islamic Jihad. While he succeeded in penetrating Jawwal, he failed to penetrate Cellcom’s and Orange’s firewalls.
Later that year Oydeh hacked Ben-Gurion Airport information centers and video feeds to view the passenger lists on incoming and outgoing flights, the type of aircraft, its weight and landing and departure times which was then used to assist the PIJ organization in potentially striking airplanes with rockets.
Moving into other areas for the terror group, from 2014 until September 2015, Oydeh supplied loans to Islamic Jihad members using money provided by Tehran.
Later in 2015, he turned his gaze to Hamas, hacking into its Interior Ministry’s records to help the PIJ to steal the Palestinian population registry in order to check who among them was cooperating with the Shin Bet and to learn details about potential recruits. Oydeh also sent a virus to their computers, successfully infecting most.
He was arrested in February 2016 while on his way to meet contenders for Arab Idol. In March 2016 an indictment was filed against him, stating that he has joined PIJ five years before, and has since worked with the terrorist group.
He was charged with endangering public safety, cyber crimes, spying, conspiracy, contact with enemy agents and membership in an illegal organization.
Even though Oydeh continued to repair and upgrade Islamic Jihad’s computers, video cameras and other technologies until his arrest, his attorney’s urged the court to respect his plea deal. Acknowledging that he was an integral part of a terrorist organization, he ceased the majority of his criminal activity a year before he was arrested.
His lawyer, Mohammed Jabarin, cited the fact that his client had no criminal record and has expressed regret for his actions.
He began working for a program that aimed to help children of Gaza and even produced the show Arab Idol in an effort to change his ways. Quoting Oydeh, the lawyer said: “I was wrong, I’m learning from my mistakes.”
In the verdict, the judges of the district court, headed by Revital Yaffe Katz, said that Oydeh’s offences necessitate substantive and tangible punishment. However, the fact that his actions did not cause any actual physical harm could not be ignored, they judges said, and before adding that they would also take his young age into consideration.
In light of the circumstances, the court decided to accept his plea deal and sentenced him to 9 years in prison and a 12 month probation period.