A Hamas terror cell whose members were from Jerusalem and Hebron planned to kidnap and murder Israelis, the Shin Bet security service said.
The cell of six people was uncovered and arrested last month, the Shin Bet announced on Thursday.
The Hamas operatives had planned to use the bodies of their kidnapped Israeli victims as bargaining chips in order to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to the Shin Bet, which called it a similar plan to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in June 2014.
The Hamas cell that kidnapped Eyal Yifrach, 19, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, and Gilad Shaar, 16, from a bus stop in Alon Shvut, located in the Etzion bloc of the West Bank, on June 12, 2014, was believed to have been planning to negotiate an exchange of prisoners.
The cell was in the “advanced stages” of planning and had already identified a hideout for the kidnapped Israel’ bodies, according to the Shin Bet. The cell had met in Hebron over the last year to plan the attacks. The cell first planned to carry out a bomb attack and then made plans for a shooting attack before settling on a kidnapping, according to the Shin Bet.
“This affair emphasizes Hamas’ intent to carry out serious terrorist attacks even at the present time in which it is in distress, in order to incite the latest terror wave into a full-blown violent intifada,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “This affair also demonstrates the reliance of Hamas cells from the territories on residents of Israel who live in Jerusalem, who enjoy free movement and have a good command of Hebrew.”