Arrests Suggest Hizballah Seeking Stronger West Bank Foothold

Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service announced Tuesday that it busted Hizballah terrorist cells operating in the West Bank planning to conduct attacks against Israelis. Nine alleged operatives were arrested over the last several months.

Members of Hizballah's Unit 133 external operations branch used social media services, especially Facebook, to recruit Palestinians in the West Bank.

"The Hizballah organization has recently made it a priority to try to spark terror acts, doing so from far away, while attempting to not clearly expressing its involvement," read a Shin Bet statement.

Funded by Hizballah, terrorist cells prepared explosives to conduct suicide bombings and attack Israel Defense Forces (IDF) patrols in the West Bank.

A Shin Bet investigation found that cell ringleader Mustafa Kamal Hindi was recruited though the "Palestine the Free" Facebook page featuring anti-Israel Hizballah posts. Hindi then recruited other operatives for a shooting attack against the IDF. Each of the cell members were between the ages of 18-22 and hailed from the West Bank town of Qalqilya. Security forces arrests the cell members in June.

One of the members, Mehmed Daoud, has ties to Hamas. A different operative purchased the material required to build a suicide bomb, while another was tasked with building the explosive device. Another terrorist focused on garnering intelligence about IDF patrols in the area. The group also began training with rifles for shooting attacks.

Gaza-based Hizballah operative Mehmed Fa'iz Abu-Jadian also used Facebook to recruit three other Palestinian men from the West Bank to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Abu-Jadian recruited Usama Nu'af Sid Najm, 36, and ordered him to use a computer encryption program to communicate with Hizballah members in Lebanon.

Najm was paid $900 to recruit others and facilitate a suicide attack, the Shin Bet said.

Najm also coordinated with a member of the Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to form a division in the West Bank. These details show that terrorist organizations with different ideological and religious objectives can cooperate effectively to attack their common enemy – the Jewish state.

Click here to read more details about other Hizballah attempts at recruiting Palestinians for terrorist attacks.

In January, a Shin Bet investigation revealed that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah's son, Jawan, recruited terrorists in the West Bank via social media. Through encrypted email exchanges with a Hizballah handler, cell ring leader Muhammad Zaghloul received instructions for conducting suicide-bombing attacks and offered a plan to kill an 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 continues trying to build networks among Palestinians, but has failed to secure a major presence in the West Bank. Those efforts are likely to continue despite the arrests.