Assassination plot against Israeli defense minister foiled, terrorists arrested

February 19, 2018

Israel’s security service, the Shin Bet, operates much like the U.S. FBI, and is tasked with foiling domestic anti-terrorism efforts in the Middle Eastern nation. Working in conjunction with the Mossad — which deals with foreign threats — and the Israeli Defense Forces, the Shin Bet’s job of protecting Israel is no small feat — but their work was vindicated over the weekend, as they managed to stop a major assassination plot.

The Shin Bet announced on Sunday that it had arrested two members of an Islamic terror cell who had plotted to kill Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.

The Assassination Plot

According to the Shin Bet’s report, members of the Islamic Jihad terror cell (PIJ) attempted to assassinate the defense minister using an improvised explosive device, or IED, which was placed along a road in the West Bank of Jerusalem, where Liberman was scheduled to travel. According to Fox News:

The operatives allegedly attempted to purchase bomb-making materials and had sought funding from another terrorist group in the Gaza Strip. But after failing to obtain explosives, the plotters are believed to have made a dummy explosive charge – which was handed over during the investigation – in the quest to garner notoriety and secure funding for future attacks.

The arrests of both suspects involved, 25-year-old Awad Mahmoud Awad al-Asakra and 32-year-old Muhammad Ali Ibrahim al-Asakra, both from Bethlehem, were announced on Sunday.

According to The Jerusalem Post, both men have quite the history:

Awad was placed under administrative detention for two years between 2015 and 2017 for plotting to carry out an attack.

Muhammad had been imprisoned by Israel twice in the past for his PIJ activity, which included being involved in preparing an explosive device and planning an attack against IDF forces.

Similar terror attacks and attempts have been common in this area over the last several months. The Shin Bet said in a statement that “these terrorist intentions reflect the increasing efforts of the PIJ and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to escalate activity with activists in the West Bank.”

The organization continued:

The defense establishment will continue to act decisively to thwart this activity and warns both Hamas and the PIJ in the Gaza Strip of the implications of carrying out terrorist attacks in the West Bank under the direction or involvement of terror elements from the Gaza Strip.

The Aftermath

Defense Minister Liberman lives in a Jewish settlement known as Nokdim in the contested West Bank, making him a prime target for terror groups. In one past attempt, “a Hamas cell headed by Ibrahim Salim Mahmoud Zir…planned to use a rocket-propelled grenade on the vehicle in which Lieberman was traveling,” according to the Post.

But Liberman, a hard-line anti-terror figure, has maintained a platform against negotiating with any terror group. He once argued that Hamas needs to stop spending millions on “war and killing people, and instead invest in the development of Gaza,” such as water systems and sanitation for the people.

And while Liberman fights against terror in Israel, the family of one of his would-be assassins will receive a prisoner’s pension from the Islamic Jihad.

Israel currently gives the Palestinian Authority (PA) tens of millions of dollars from customs duties collected on Palestinian-bound goods shipping through Israeli ports — and while the money is meant to be spent on maintenance of infrastructure and other governmental functions for the PA, it is instead used as a type of welfare for terrorists and their families.

A bill that would end this practice was recently approved by committee, and is on its way to the Israeli Knesset for debate, where Liberman has wholeheartedly supported it, saying the bill would bring an end to “this theater of the absurd” in Israel.

The success of the Israelis in stopping yet another terror attack is good news for us. As America’s most tenacious ally in the Middle East, when Israel wins against terror, we win too.

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Kit Perez

Kit Perez is a Conservative Institute contributor. She is an intelligence analyst with a dual specialty in counterintelligence and HUMINT. She writes on national security, tech, and privacy issues. Kit has a B.A. in Counterintelligence and an M.A. in Intelligence Studies from American Military University.