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

Israeli Security Agency Uncovered a Major Terrorist Ring in the West Bank

Filed under: Israeli Security, Palestinians, Terrorism

Israeli Security Agency Uncovered a Major Terrorist Ring in the West Bank
Weapons captured from the PFLP terror cell by the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet)
  • The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced the uncovering of an extensive network of the PFLP terrorist organization in the West Bank on December 18, 2019. The large cell operated under the nose of the Palestinian Authority and carried out the IED bomb murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb on August 23, 2019. The terror ring planned further attacks.
  • The investigation led to the arrest of 50 terrorists, including the leader of the PFLP in the West Bank, Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar. She is also the head of a human rights NGO with active involvement in the BDS movement.

A few hours after Hamas tried to portray the Israeli Shin Bet as a useless tool in a propaganda film broadcast on the Hizballah-affiliated al-Mayadeen, the Israeli Shin Bet unveiled one of its most substantial intelligence successes in the West Bank. They conducted a raid on the significant infrastructure of the PFLP that has operated secretly for about a year-and-a-half. The PFLP carried out terrorist attacks and planned another series of dangerous attacks.

The Shin Bet succeeded in arresting members of the terrorist squad responsible for the IED explosion against an Israeli family that murdered 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in the terrorist attack at the Ein Bubin pool in August 2019.

As part of the investigation, the Shin Bet located and seized numerous and deadly weapons, undoubtedly preventing further attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in the West Bank. The seized weapons included rifles, pistols, silencers, ammunition, walkie-talkies, and materials for building explosives and IEDs.

Guns and bomb-making equipment
Guns and bomb-making equipment found by Israeli security forces during arrests of the PFLP terror group in the West Bank (Shin Bet).

Members of the PFLP cell also attacked Israeli vehicles traveling through Judea and Samaria; the terrorists fired at an Israeli bus near the Ofra settlement in December 2017 and at an Israeli vehicle near the city of Ariel in March 2019.

The Shin Bet succeeded in shutting down the extensive infrastructure of the Popular Front, which operated under the noses of the PA security forces. The members of the PFLP lived in the Ramallah area and operated out of an office in Ramallah under the control of the PA. The fact that they were not exposed indicates a high level of operational capabilities and discipline.

The PFLP belongs to the PLO, yet it maintains very high compartmentalization and specializes in operating as a secret infrastructure.

Leaders of the PFLP in the West Bank

The Popular Front in the West Bank is led by Ahmad Sa’adat who is serving a 30-year sentence in an Israeli prison after being convicted of plotting the 2001 murder of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam “Gandhi” Ze’evi.

The Popular Front is a radical Left organization considered a staunch opponent to the Palestinian Authority and  its PA’s policies; it denies the legitimacy of the Oslo Accords and works with Hamas to thwart President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”

Khalida Jarrar posing with PFLP poster
Khalida Jarrar posing with PFLP poster featuring the imprisoned terrorist Ahmad Sa’adat (Social Media)

According to security officials, Ahmad Sa’adat operated the PFLP (with restraints) from inside an Israeli prison through couriers and cell phones. However, security officials were unable to uncover who took his place in the West Bank. The intensive Shin Bet investigation revealed that Palestinian parliament member Khalida Jarrar, 56, from the Ramallah area, heads the Popular Front in the West Bank and is responsible for all its activities, including terrorist attacks.

Khalida Jarrar, a mother of two daughters from Ramallah, is a lawyer by profession and the head of the human rights organization Addameer (Prisoner Support & Human Rights Association), which operates in the West Bank. The organization, a member of the Palestinian BDS National Committee,1 has played a prominent part in the PA’s activities at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In 2015, she was arrested and placed under administrative detention and later convicted in a military court for membership of the Popular Front and various security offenses. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her arrest sparked international protests by human rights organizations.

In 2016, she was released from prison and was then welcomed by Israeli Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, who defined her as a “freedom fighter imprisoned in an attempt by the occupation to silence her.”

Khalida Jarrar and Ayman Odeh
Khalida Jarrar, who was arrested by Israel’s Shin Bet security service for her ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) terror group, is pictured with Israeli-Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint Arab List. (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2017, she was again arrested under administrative detention, which was lengthened four times. Now, as a result of the investigation into the Ein Bubin spring attack, the Shin Bet has learned a lot more about Jarrar’s activities, and she will be prosecuted again.

The Shin Bet investigation has revealed a new hierarchical structure of the Popular Front in the West Bank. Also arrested was Walid Hanatasha, who was the head of the military arm of the West Bank Popular Front and the commander of Samer al-’Arbid, the head of the terror squad that killed Rina Shnerb. The investigation has not ended and will likely lead to additional arrests and further discovery of weapons.

The Popular Front is a relatively small organization, but its terrorist acts are considered “highly-sophisticated.” Designated by the U.S. Government in 1997 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a Marxist-Leninist group that was formed in 1967 by George Habash. It has operated out of Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank.2  Exposing the PFLP’s extensive infrastructure by the Shin Bet is expected to paralyze its terrorist activity in the West Bank for a long time. One of its main sites for recruiting new operatives is Bir Zeit University near Ramallah.

Khalida Jarrar’s arrest also makes political life easier for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as she was one of the PA’s fiercest critics and its security cooperation with Israel.

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