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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Israel Security Agency’s Long Reach in the West Bank

Filed under: Fatah, Israeli Security, Palestinians

Israel Security Agency’s Long Reach in the West Bank
Security cameras photographed Ashraf Naalwa fleeing the scene after killing two Israelis.
  • The Israel Security Agency (ISA) and the IDF pulled off a successful intelligence operation in the West Bank when they caught and killed terrorists Ashraf Naalwa, responsible for the murders at a factory in Barkan on October 7, 2018, and Salah Barghouti, a member of the terror cell that carried out the attack at the Ofra Junction on December 8, 2018.
  • The Israeli action was a strike against Hamas and Iran, who are attempting to ignite the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority did not interfere with the IDF’s operations, as it also had an interest in eliminating the terrorists.

In a joint operation with Israel’s counter-terrorism unit, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) achieved a major coup on December 12, 2018, when it managed to eliminate terrorist Ashraf Naalwa, who was in hiding at the Askar refugee camp near Nablus.

Ashraf Naalwa
Security cameras photographed Ashraf Naalwa fleeing the scene after killing two Israelis.
A Fatah poster of Ashraf Naalwa
A Fatah poster of Ashraf Naalwa that says, “The wanted one, Ashraf Na’alwa. Allah is protecting you and taking care of you, He will not abandon you or harm you.” The rifle and flag were photo-shopped onto his image. (Palestinian Media Watch)

According to security sources, the terrorist was armed with a Carlo submachine gun, and he planned to carry out another terror attack. He was killed at the time of his arrest. Palestinian security elements on the scene arrested another three brothers from the Bushkar family, who sheltered him in their home.

Ashraf Naalwa, a resident of the Shuweika neighborhood of Tulkarm, managed to evade arrest for two months after he murdered Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi in the factory where they worked in the Barkan industrial zone on October 7, 2018.

Kim Levengrond Yehezkel and Ziv Hajbi
Israelis Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29 (left), and Ziv Hajbi, 35, tied up and executed by Naalwa.

Hamas took him under its wing and called upon the residents of the West Bank to help him hide. Hamas claimed that he was “a symbol of the resistance” who managed to defy the Israelis, and posted pictures of him and made appeals on social media networks to emulate his actions.

Naalwa’s father, mother, and brother were arrested in November after it became apparent from the investigation that they knew in advance about his intention to carry out the terror attack. However, they did nothing to prevent it, and they even tried to hinder the investigation. They will be standing trial.

The family home will be demolished after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the family against the demolition of their home on December 5, 2018.

What Lay Behind the Terror Attack at the Ofra Junction?

ISA also managed to find out who was behind the terror attack at the Ofra Junction, which resulted in the death of Israeli baby Ami-ad Yisrael Ish-Ran. His mother Shira Ish-Ran was severely wounded, along with another six Israelis. The terror attack was perpetrated by a Hamas terrorist cell from the village of Kobar, in the Ramallah district.

One of the members of the cell, Salah Barghouti, aged 29, was eliminated by the Israeli police’s counter-terrorism unit when he was traveling in a taxi along the main thoroughfare of the village of Surda.

In an IDF raid on the village of Kobar, Barghouti’s father and brother were arrested, along with two other members of the Barghouti clan.

In their searches in the city of Ramallah, the security forces found the vehicle the terrorists used to carry out the terror attack at the Ofra Junction.

The large Barghouti clan from the village of Kobar is politically divided. One camp supports Fatah, as represented by Marwan Barghouti, who was the secretary-general of Fatah in the West Bank and leader of Fatah’s military wing. He is currently running a sentence of five life terms in an Israeli jail for the murders of Israeli citizens during the second intifada.

The second camp supports Hamas.

According to Palestinian sources, there is a family relationship between Salah al-Barghouti, who was killed on December 12, 2018 in the Ramallah district, and the terrorist Nael Barghouti, the most veteran security prisoner in Israeli jail.

Nael Barghouti served a 33-year sentence in an Israeli jail for murdering an Israeli army officer in 1978. He belonged to Fatah, but while he was in prison he defected to the ranks of Hamas and became one of its leaders. He was released under the Shalit Deal in 2011, but was rearrested by IDF military intelligence when he returned to his terrorist activities.

A Blow to Hamas and Iran

The arrest and elimination of these terrorists has struck a blow to Hamas and Iran, which instructed Hamas to incite the West Bank to create another front with Israel. Israel is currently facing Hamas in the Gaza Strip in the south, the Hizbullah terror tunnels in the north, and the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria designed to open an additional front against Israel from the Golan Heights.

During the first two weeks of December, there was growing criticism in Israel for the security forces’ failure to apprehend Naalwa. However, ISA worked thoroughly and professionally to successfully track him down before he carried out another terror attack.

The elimination of Naalwa was a big failure for Hamas, which had taken him under its wing and tried to turn him into a “symbol of the resistance” and a role model for emulation.

In recent weeks, Hamas conducted a social media campaign calling upon the Palestinian public to help Naalwa hide and continue his work. However, the long arm of ISA still got to him.

ISA’s operation was also a blow for Saleh al-Arouri, vice-chairman of the Hamas political bureau and leader of its military wing in the West Bank, who handled the sleeper cells via his office in the Hizbullah headquarters in Beirut, the headquarters for West Bank operations in the Gaza Strip, and the Hamas office in Istanbul, Turkey.  Sleeper cells are recruited in the West Bank and handled by former prisoners released under the Shalit prisoner exchange deal, who were deported to the Gaza Strip and Turkey.

Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority’s Security Force?

The security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority was also a success. The IDF operated in the center of Ramallah, confiscated security cameras from the official Wafa news agency, and worked in the area of the Muqata and the residence of Mahmoud Abbas to locate the car used by the terrorists to carry out the terror attack. All of this was done without any physical resistance from the Palestinian security services.

The Palestinian Authority issued condemnations against the IDF operation, but this was “lip service,” designed to calm the Palestinian public. Mahmoud Abbas also had an interest in Israel’s immediate elimination of the Hamas cell operating from the Ramallah area.