Members of the Islamist militant group Hamas reportedly planned large-scale attacks on one of Israel’s biggest soccer stadiums and a rail line in Jerusalem, as well as several stand-alone car bombings. Such a violent series of events could have led to the downfall of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which is “one of Hamas’ goals,” according to the Times of Israel.
Israeli officials were able to intervene before the attacks and detained about 30 suspects in September, Agence France-Presse reported. The militants had plans to attack Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium and a light-rail line, in addition to engaging in lone-wolf actions such as suicide bombings, Shin Bet said Thursday. The suspects had also planned to kidnap Israeli citizens at home and abroad, Israel’s internal security service said.
All between the ages of 23 and 30, the suspects were recruited by a Hamas branch in the West Bank, but had received their commands from a group headquarters in Turkey, AFP reported. Some were recruited while attending school in Jordan, the Times of Israel said. Others were recruited and trained in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Syria.
The foiled Hamas plot came after an Israeli ground operation in Gaza last summer. After the conflict, Hamas reluctantly ceded some power over Gaza to the West Bank’s ruling Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile, tensions in Jerusalem have been rising: There has been a surge in revenge attacks and sporadic spurts of violence in the last two months -- and Hamas has not claimed responsibiliry for all of them.
One of the deadliest recent attacks in Jerusalem occurred at an ultraorthodox synagogue this month. Two cousins reportedly affiliated with the secular Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, entered the house of worship during morning prayers with a meat cleaver and guns, which they used to kill four rabbis and one police officer. The PFLP told International Business Times it was not a religious attack, but a response to Israel’s continued and increasing “occupation” in Jerusalem.
Although Hamas and PFLP ideals are vastly different, the Islamist militants subsequently praised the synagogue attack and reiterated their call for an increase in lone-wolf violence.