The policeman, four other ringleaders and dozens of members of the terrorist cell have been arrested. The cell was responsible for the deaths of 21 Israelis and hundreds of wounded. They planned a series of additional attacks, including the kidnapping of a Knesset member. The failed attempt to kidnap an israeli soldier is what ultimately led to the cell’s capture.

Israel has uncovered a Hamas terror cell which initiated, planned and carried out the suicide bombings at the Mahane Yehuda market and the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem last summer which killed 21 people and injured more than 300. Five of the commanders of the terror cell have been arrested, including Amar Abd al-Rahman Zaben, a Palestinian policeman from Nablus.

The policeman, who works in the Nablus prison, is a central member of the military wing of Hamas. He selected the locations of the attacks, collected intelligence about them and led the five suicide bombers to carry out the attacks at the marketplace and the pedestrian mall.

Israeli General Security Service investigators, aided by the Israeli Army’s Duvdevan unit and the Border Police’s undercover agents, succeeded in uncovering the policeman’s activity and that of one of the most dangerous Hamas terror cells to have operated in the West Bank since 1995. In addition to the two attacks in Jerusalem, members of the terror group carried out a string of attacks in Nablus, and in May 1996 they murdered yeshiva student David Boim in Beit El.

Booby-Trapped Videotapes

The discovery of the terror group and the arrest of dozens of its members throughout the West Bank thwarted a range of terror activities the group had planned, including: the takeover of a residential or office building; a suicide bombing in the French Hill section of Jerusalem; car-bombs in Haifa, Beit El and Ariel; the planting of mines and explosive devices in various locations in the West Bank; attacks via explosive devices hidden in videotapes; and a planned kidnapping of a Knesset member.

Instructions From Jordan

In addition to the Palestinian policeman, four other ringleaders of the terror group were arrested: Muab Ghassan Yusuf Jabara (23), commander of the Hebron cell and a former student at the Haifa Technion, whose arrest led to the discovery of the group; Abdallah Bakri, commander of the Ramallah cell; Muwad Balal and Iman Said Khalawa, students from Nablus. Additional members of the terror group have not yet been arrested. Some of the detentions were carried out by the Palestinian Preventive Intelligence Service headed by Tufik Turawi.

The group’s senior commanders were Mahmoud Abu Hunud, a leading wanted fugitive originally from Nablus, and Khalil Sharif, who blew himself up in the suicide bombing at the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. The two were activated by the commanders of Hamas’ military wing in the West Bank, Muhi a-Din a-Sharif and Adel Awadallah, both wanted fugitives. They were also in contact with Hamas headquarters in Jordan and Gaza and senior Hamas figures who are behind bars in Israeli and Palestinian jails.

This is how the terror group was uncovered: on November 24, 1997, at the A-Ram checkpoint in northern Jerusalem, Israeli Border Policemen stopped a group of terrorists who were on their way back from the Tel Aviv area after a failed attempt to kidnap an Israeli soldier. Three pistols were found in the car, along with magazines and ammunition, handcuffs, a yarmulke, a commando knife and a syringe loaded with a sleep-inducing injection.

The terrorists had gone to fulfill their mission in two cars. Muab Ghassan Yusuf Jabara, commander of the terror group, was in the car which was not captured. He was later located and arrested by the Israeli General Security Service. The interrogation of Jabara was what led to the unravelling of the entire scheme.

The investigation led to the discovery of the Hamas laboratory in Nablus earlier this year, where 700 kilograms of chemicals were found from which dangerous explosive materials, including TATP, could be prepared. The explosive devices used by the suicide bombers at the Mahaneh Yehuda market and the pedestrian mall in Jerusalem last summer were prepared in this laboratory.