“In recent months, the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police uncovered a Hamas terror cell, extraordinary in its size and level of activity, which operated in the Nablus area,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 20 suspected members of the Hamas cell in late April, including its two leaders: Mutassem Muhammad Salem, 35, and Fares Kamil Zebidi, 33.
According to the security service, this cell began operating in October 2017.
“Most of them had a connection to the Hamas organization and some of them had a rich history of terrorist activities, including in the production of explosives and bombs,” the Shin Bet said.
Details of the case were kept under gag order until Salem and Zebidi were indicted in a military court on Sunday.
Following the arrests and the subjects’ interrogations, Israeli security forces found multiple explosive devices that the group is believed to have manufactured, including one that weighed 10 kilograms (22 pounds), which could be detonated by cellphone. Another 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of explosives were also seized, the Shin Bet said.
“Additional materials for creating an explosive device, weapons and information storage devices with instructions on the manufacturing of bombs and explosives were also discovered,” the security service said.
Some of the explosives that were found were detonated on site by security forces.
The Shin Bet said the discovery of the Nablus cell and the alleged members’ interrogations led investigators to find and arrest other Hamas cells suspected of planning terror attacks.
“The discovery of this cell shows the constant desire by the Hamas organization to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets to disturb the relative calm,” the Shin Bet said.
Though the Shin Bet identified the cell as part of the Hamas terrorist group, Salem was also believed to be in contact with an operative of the Syria-based terrorist group once known as the Nusra Front, now called Tahrir al-Sham, according to the indictment against him.
The arrest of the more than 20 suspected cell members made this one of the largest busts by the Shin Bet in recent years.
The IDF identified Salem as the main instigator of the cell’s activities.