Last night, the Israeli Air Force conducted airstrikes on what it described as “major terror infrastructure” in the Gaza Strip.
“In response to the 3 rockets fired at southern Israeli communities throughout yesterday from Gaza, IAF fighter jets targeted a significant terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement. “The IDF will continue and will proceed with all the tools at its disposal above and below the ground to thwart attempts to harm Israeli citizens. We are prepared and ready for a range of scenarios and we will act against every attempt to violate Israeli sovereignty.”
According to reports, southern Israel was shelled with 3 rockets on January 3. However, mortars and rockets caused no damage or injuries. The shelling hit Eshkol Regional Council located close to the Gaza border fence. Reports also emerged that the fourth rocket was launched from Gaza on the same day. However the IDF did not report this incident.
On January 3, Israel’s internal security agency said it had exposed an Iranian espionage network operating in the West Bank and arrested its Palestinian leader, 29-year-old Mohammed Maharmeh.
According to the released statement, Iranian intelligence recruited Maharma, a computer engineering student from Hebron, to carry out attacks against Israel and conduct espionage missions in the West Bank on behalf of Iran. Maharma was allegedly recruited by his relative Bachar Maharma living in South Africa.
The Jerusalem Post reports on the issue (source):
“As part of the attempt, Bachar met with Muhammad in South Africa three years ago and introduced him to Iranian handlers, some of whom traveled from Tehran to meet with their recruit.
After meeting with the Iranians, he was instructed to recruit more operatives and to carry out a series of attacks against Israelis, including a suicide bombing and shooting attacks. He was also offered to learn how to handle and assemble explosives and to take part in weapons training.
During the investigation it was discovered that Iranian intelligence has been using South Africa to identify potential recruits and operatives to work against Israel in the West Bank.
He was also asked to recruit an Israeli Arab as well as other Israelis, such as journalists, who have access to various official places in the country.
According to the Shin Bet, Muhammad successfully recruited two Hebron residents, Nour Maharma, 22, and Diaa Srahana, 22, to form a terrorist cell. For his efforts Muhammad Maharma was paid $8,000.
It was uncovered that the plan was for Muhammad to open a computer store in the Hebron area and to use it as the central intelligence gathering base for the operation and to send pictures of the store to his handlers and his cousin Bachar in South Africa.
He was also tasked with transferring an Israeli SIM card and both Israeli and Syrian currency to his Iranian handlers, possibly to fund an attack to be carried out within Israel’s borders.
He was 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. Bachar is believed to still be in South Africa.”
The security agency’s statement came shortly after the IDF announcement about the rocket attack from the Gaza Strip.
On the same day, Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenage boy in the central part of the West Bank during clashes in protest at US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
17-year-old Musab Firas al-Tamimi sustained serious gunshot wounds during a demonstration in the village of Deir Nidham, located bout 23 km northwest of Ramallah. Al-Tamimi died from the wounds in a hospital.