A joint operation involving the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Police and Shin Bet security agency has uncovered the terrorist cell involved in the bombing of Dan bus No. 240 in Bat Yam on Dec. 22. The cell was exposed in the midst of planning another major terror attack in the Tel Aviv area.
According to details cleared for publication on Thursday, the operation resulted in the arrests of 14 suspected terrorists, including Islamic Jihad operatives from Bethlehem and several Israeli Bedouin. A Palestinian policeman has also been implicated in the attack.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commended the IDF, Shin Bet and police on their work. "This is further proof that Palestinian Authority officials are directly involved in acts of terror. It is time that Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] stop celebrating the release of terrorists and start leading his people on the path for peace," he said.
According to details available, four members of the cell were directly implicated in the bus bombing, while 10 others are considered infrastructure operatives. Sources familiar with the case said that three suspects -- Israeli Arabs -- were detained by the Lachish Subdistrict Police on the day of the bombing, while the rest were detained by the IDF's Etzion Brigade over the past few days, following extensive intelligence work by the Shin Bet.
The three Israeli Arabs detained in connection with the bombing have denied allegations against them.
A Shin Bet statement identified four of the suspects as Shahada Taamri, 24, and his 21-year-old brother Hamdi Taamri, a former cadet in the Jericho Police officers course; Sami Harimi, 20, who was employed for a few months at the popular Abulafia bakery in Jaffa, apparently without a permit; and Yosef Salamah, 22.
The explosive device planted on the bus was allegedly assembled by the four. It included 2 kilograms (4.5 pounds) of improvised explosives, nails, bolts, and a remote control trigger mechanism attached to a mobile phone.
Harimi was tasked with planting the bomb. According to the Shin Bet, on the morning of the attack, Harimi, carrying a black bag in which the device was concealed, traveled to the south Mount Hebron region, where he infiltrated Israel through a breach in the security fence in the Eshkolot area.
Harimi was then able to hitchhike to Jaffa. After praying at a local mosque, he boarded Dan bus No. 240, placed the device near the rear door and got off at the next stop. Minutes later, he called the mobile phone attached to the explosive, triggering the bomb.
Harimi, who was arrested in Bethlehem four days after the attack, told investigators that the cell planned to carry out another terror attack in the Tel Aviv area in the near future.
Hamdi Taamri led investigators to an explosives cache in his house, where security forces found some 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of explosives. IDF sappers later performed a controlled detonation of the explosives.
Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig. Gen. Tamir Yadi said the explosives cache "could have produced a significant number of devices. We believe that this was either an old cache, or that they had knowledge in explosives manufacturing."
Yadi said the military believes the cell was planning to carry out additional terror attacks.
He said that while some of the suspects were known to the defense establishment as persons of interest, "there was no specific indication that they were involved in terror activity."
"As far as we're concerned, this incident began with the bus bombing," he said. "I'm very concerned that we had no intelligence about this cell. Still, we have to assume that out of dozens of planned terror plots, one might slip past us."