Shin Bet: Iranian-backed terror network exposed in the West Bank
A Palestinian living in South Africa is suspected of operating a terror network backed and funded by Iran in the West Bank, Israel’s Security Agency, the Shin Bet, revealed on Wednesday.
“The General Security Service, with the assistance of the IDF, exposed and foiled a terrorist network in Judea and Samaria that operated under the auspices and intelligence of Iran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday.
The main West Bank operative who was apprehended by the Shin Bet is 29-year-old Mohammed Maharma, a computer engineering student from Hebron.
According to a statement by the security agency, Mohammed was recruited to the Iranian Intelligence-led initiative by his relative Bachar Maharma, who has been living for the past few years in South Africa.
The investigation exposed that Iranian Intelligence was using South Africa as a central terror recruiting and operating hub to carry out actions against Israel in the West Bank.
According to the statement, Bachar Mahamra attempted to establish an intelligence gathering and terrorist cell that would act on Iran’s behalf.
As part of the attempt, Bachar took advantage of Mohammed’s travels to South Africa in 2015 to introduce him to the Iranian handlers, some of whom arrived especially from Tehran.
The handlers commissioned Mohammed to carry out recruiting efforts for suicide and shooting attacks. He was also invited to take part in special explosives and weapons training.
The plan put forth was for Mohammed to open a computer shop in the Hebron area, possibly in order to make that the central intelligence gathering base for the operation.
He was also tasked with recruiting an Arab citizen of Israel, who could take reconnaissance photos within Israel.
In addition, he was asked to transfer an Israeli sim card and Israeli currency to the Iranian agents, possibly for a planned attack within Israel’s borders.
According to the Shin Bet statement, Mohamed Maharma successfully recruited two Palestinian activists Nour Maharma (22) and Diaá Srahana (22), both Hebron residents, to complete the West Bank terror cell. The investigation revealed that Mohammed Maharma was paid $8,000 for his efforts.
Maharma was recently indicted on charges of contact with a foreign agent, receiving funds from an enemy entity and conspiring to form an illegal organization.
The two recruits were charged with attempting to join an illegal organization.
“The activity that was exposed reveals Iran’s part in attempting to put into motion terrorist activities against Israel,” the Shin bet Statement concluded. “It also reveals Iran’s tentacles, sent out around the world to promote hostile activities against Israel.”