Despite being bogged down in the Syrian Civil War, Hizballah continues to focus on expanding its terrorist infrastructure to multiple fronts in an effort to target Israel. Hizballah's entrenchment in the Golan Heights – at Iran's behest – has been well documented. Now, the Lebanese terrorist organization is trying to set up operations and recruit Palestinians in the West Bank to launch attacks against Israelis.
Last week, Israeli security authorities foiled a Palestinian terrorist cell planning a suicide bombing and shooting attack under Hizballah's command. Five Palestinian men, none of whom belonged to the terrorist organization, were arrested. The terrorists were also threw Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces in violent riots during the past year.
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the operatives confessed that Hizballah's Unit 133 directed the operation and that Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah recruited the cell's leader, Muhammad Zaghloul.
Jawad Nasrallah asked Zaghloul to recruit terrorists into a cell and scout potential targets for attack. Through encrypted email exchanges with a Hizballah handler, Zaghloul received instructions for conducting suicide-bombing attacks and he even offered a plan to kill an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer. Zaghloul admitted that the cell conducted surveillance of the officer and requested $30,000 to purchase arms to kill him.
The operatives received $5,000 from Hizballah, which covered the purchase of a sub-machine gun and magazine. The plot to shoot Israeli soldiers was likely in its execution phase since the two terrorists were arrested in possession of the firearm.
Unit 133 is a Hizballah division devoted to creating terrorist networks among Palestinians, but has failed to secure a major presence in the West Bank. Nevertheless, it is likely Hizballah will continue to seek making inroads in the Palestinian territory and recruit terrorists to attack Israelis.
Acting on Iranian orders, Hizballah was able to direct and coordinate dozens of Palestinian terrorist cells during the second Intifada. From 2002 to 2007, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hizballah directed and coordinated dozens of Palestinian terrorist networks, mostly cells that were part of Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Throughout the 1990s and beginning of 2000s, Hizballah sent Lebanese operatives with foreign passports to Israel via Europe in order to support Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups devoted to sabotaging the Oslo Peace Process and damage the Palestinian Authority.
Similar to Hamas' recent attempts, Hizballah is trying to escalate the ongoing wave of Palestinian violence into a full-blown violent uprising by introducing an organized terrorist dimension to a phenomenon that has been largely characterized by individual initiatives.