Israeli security: Iran-backed terror cell uncovered in West Bank

by WorldTribune Staff, January 4, 2018

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency reported it has broken up a terror cell in the West Bank that was supported by Iran.

According to Shin Bet, Iranian intelligence recruited 29-year-old Muhammad Maharma, a computer engineering student from Hebron, to recruit additional terrorists, carry out attacks and conduct espionage missions in the West Bank on behalf of Teheran.

Muhammad Maharma, left, and Bachar Maharma. / Shin Bet

Maharma was arrested and indicted on charges of contact with a foreign agent, receiving funds from an enemy entity and conspiring to form an illegal organization.

“The activities that have been exposed illustrate Iranian involvement in the encouragement of terrorism against Israel and expose the tentacles that are sent out by Iran to different countries around the world for the sake of promoting hostile activities against Israel,” read a statement released by Shin Bet.

The statement said Maharma was recruited by his relative, Bachar Maharma, who has been living in South Africa.

Shin Bet said that Bachar introduced Muhammad to Iranian handlers who traveled to South Africa three years ago.

After meeting with the Iranians, Muhammad Maharma was instructed to recruit more operatives and to carry out a series of attacks against Israelis, including a suicide bombing and shooting attacks. He was also offered to learn how to handle and assemble explosives and to take part in weapons training, the Shin Bet statement said.

According to Shin Bet, Muhammad successfully recruited two Hebron residents, Nour Maharma, 22, and Diaa Srahana, 22, to form a terror cell. For his efforts Muhammad Maharma was paid $8,000.

Maharma was also asked to recruit an Israeli Arab as well as other Israelis, such as journalists, who have access to various official places in Israel.

Shin Bet said the plan was for Muhammad to open a computer store in the Hebron area and to use it as the central intelligence gathering base for the operation and to send photos of the store to his handlers and his cousin Bachar in South Africa.

He was also tasked with transferring an Israeli SIM card and both Israeli and Syrian currency to his Iranian handlers, possibly to fund an attack to be carried out within Israel’s borders.

Shin Bet discovered during its investigation of the terror cell that Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa to identify potential recruits and operatives to work against Israel in the West Bank. Bachar is believed to still be in South Africa.

Netanyahu said that Iran is engaged in terrorism against Israel “not only by assisting terrorist movements such as Hamas, Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, but also in trying to organize terrorist activities inside Israel and against Israeli citizens.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Jan. 2 that Iran had increased its funding to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the tune of $100 million in order to have more influence in the Gaza Strip.

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