In "Operation Time Bomb," police and Israel Security Agency arrest 14 Israeli Arab members of terrorist cell that smuggled weapons and explosives from Lebanon into Israel • Security services disrupt plot before bombs get to their handler, foiling plans to carry out huge wave of terrorist attacks against Israeli targets.
Israel Hayom Staff
Some of the explosives intended for use against Israeli targets.
Photo credit: Israel Police
The trigger mechanism.
Photo credit: Israel Police
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Photo credit: AP
Israel has foiled a massive plot to carry out a "mega-attack" or wave of several deadly terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, it was announced on Wednesday. The Israel Police's Northern District's Border Unit and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) scored a significant intelligence success by uncovering an Israeli-Arab cell smuggling weapons and explosives from Lebanon into Israel.
Eleven suspects were indicted Wednesday in a Nazareth court on charges of aiding the enemy in a time of war, meeting with foreign agents, possession of weapons,conspiracy to commit a crime, attempted drug smuggling and attempted drug trafficking.
Following the lifting of a gag order on the case Wednesday, it was revealed that the cell, made up of three distinct groups and comprising 14 individuals smuggled in 24 ready-to-use C4 high-quality bombs with attached timers into the northern border town of Ghajar, which straddles the Israel-Lebanon border. In addition to the explosive devices, the suspected cell members were caught, following an extensive intelligence gathering operation, with an FN MAG general-purpose machine gun and an M16 rifle stolen from the Israel Defense Forces.
Of the 14 suspects, six are from Ghajar (one of the suspects is reportedly just 17 years old and another is related to the village's elder), six are from Nazareth and one from Ramle in the center of the country.
From Ghajar, the explosives were transferred to Kafr Kana and Nazareth. The operation was dubbed "Time Bomb" as the security services were racing against time to make sure the explosives weren't scattered across the country. The cells were operated by the Hezbollah: One cell operated in Lebanon and transferred the explosives to the cell based in Ghajar. The Ghajar cell then worked with the Nazareth-based cell. According to police, some communication between the cells was done through cellphone SIM cards procured in Jordan.
"This is one of the most severe and dangerous security plots we've had here. The intelligence provided by the police's northern border unit was of extremely high quality," a district police officer told Israel Radio on Wednesday.
Police said that Hezbollah used an existing drug smuggling network of Israeli Arabs to bring 24 ready-to-use bombs from Lebanon into Israel. Some of the smugglers were not aware that they were transporting explosives, whilst others did know, police added.
According to the Northern District's Spokesperson's Office, "Over the past year, Hezbollah has been greatly motivated to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis and Jews. Hezbollah has worked to gather intelligence information to carry out a significant terrorist attack. In order to achieve their set goal of carrying out a high-profile, effective attack inside Israel, Hezbollah smuggled in large bombs, including operating systems and timers."
In a press conference, a Shin Bet official said that the agency decided to swoop in on the cell after the bombs were moved from the northern border town of Ghajar to Nazareth. It remains unclear who the eventual recipients of the explosives are, and there is speculation from security experts that since the bombs did not reach their intended handlers, there is a strong possibility that a Hezbollah sleeper cell is still active in Israel. The Shin Bet told reporters that it decided to act to take 20 kilograms of C4 explosives off the streets. Agency officials said that Hezbollah uses tactics of crime organizations, making use of drug smuggling networks. This is just the tip of the iceberg of Hezbollah terror activity, the official said. Since Hezbollah has been deterred from heating up the Lebanese border with Israel, it is trying to spread terror abroad, such as the July attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, and inside Israel, the official said.
Israel Police's Northern District and Central Investigations Unit received an initial tip-off on the modus operandi of the cell, and then passed on the information to the Shin Bet.
Northern District Police Commander Maj. Gen. Roni Atia said following the arrests: "Uncovering the cell prevented horrible attacks. In these days, in which the complex security situation affects us at home and abroad, the Israeli public has an opportunity to see up close the methodical and collaborative work that is done by all of Israel's security agencies to thwart, prevent and enforce the law against those who wish to harm us both at home and abroad."
Atia said it was not the first time Israeli Arabs from Nazareth have been implicated in terrorism, adding that the village of Ghajar is Israel's weak spot in the north. The majority of Israeli Arabs have absolutely no interest in collaborating with Hezbollah, and the collaborators are a small minority, a Shin Bet official said. The fact that Hezbollah has to make use of drug smuggling networks is a sign of its weakness, the official added.