An Iranian military intelligence operation in the West Bank was planning to carry out terror attacks and was collecting intelligence for the Islamic Republic.
The Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, on Wednesday revealed that it had uncovered the terror cell working in the Hebron area, which was recruited and financed by an Iranian intelligence operative living in South Africa.
Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa as a significant centre for locating, recruiting and operating agents against Israel in the West Bank, the ISA said in a statement issued Wednesday.
The ISA worked in conjunction with the Israel Defence Forces to expose and arrest the members of the cell.
Three members of the cell, which had been operating for about two years, were arrested in November, according to the ISA. The principal operative that was arrested is Mahmoud Makharmeh, 29, a computer engineering student who resides in Hebron. He was recruited for Iranian intelligence activity by a relative, Bakhar Makharmeh, who is from Hebron, but has lived in recent years in South Africa.
Among Mahmoud Makharmeh’s missions, according to the ISA, were: Recruiting suicide terrorists and a cell to carry out shooting attacks; undergoing a training course in explosives and war materiel; opening a computer store in the area to establish a base of operations for intelligence collection in Hebron; recruiting an Israeli Arab who could photograph inside Israel; and transferring Israeli SIM cards and funds to the Iranians for use for operations in Israel.
He recruited two 22-year-olds from Hebron: Nour Makharmeh and Diaa Sarakhneh.
The cell members were indicted earlier this week in an Israeli military court. Mahmoud Makharmeh was charged for contact with a hostile organisation from outside the area, receiving enemy funds and attempting to join an illegal organisation, and his two cell members were charged for joining an illegal organisation.
The ISA said in a statement that the uncovering of the cell “underscores Iran’s involvement in sponsoring terrorism against Israel and exposes Iran’s efforts in various countries in order to promote hostile activity against Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that this is not the first time that the ISA has uncovered an Iranian-backed terrorist network in the West Bank.
“I would like to bring it to your attention that Iran is using terrorism against the State of Israel not only with the assistance of terrorist movements such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad but is also attempting to organise terrorist actions inside the State of Israel and against the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said.