Israel's security service Shin Bet revealed on Tuesday Israeli forces arrested a man from Jerusalem suspected of planning to assassinate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat earlier this year.
Shin Bet indicated that the main suspect, Muhammad Jamal Rashdeh, 30, was arrested on April 24. After investigations, two more suspects were arrested in the following weeks. The security service refused to identify the two suspected accomplices.
In a statement issued, the security service indicated that working on orders from operatives abroad, Rashdeh planned to carry out a number of significant terror attacks against a variety of targets.
The targets included Netanyahu and Barkat, as well as buildings belonging to the US consulate in Jerusalem and a delegation of Canadian security officials who were in Jerusalem to train Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank.
A Shin Bet spokesperson said Rashdeh received his orders from members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) in Syria.
In order to carry out the attacks, Rashdeh and his accomplices planned to bring in an additional operative from Jordan, the Shin Bet said.
“The arrest of the suspects thwarted significant terror attacks, which the cell had been requested to advance,” asserted the statement.
Jerusalem Mayor Barkat issued a statement lauding the Shin Bet efforts for foiling the assassination attempt on his life.
“Our internal security agency is one of the best in the world. Throughout their handling of this threat, I was updated and knew that the Shin Bet was in the picture and that the police were in the field. I could trust in them and sleep soundly and securely,” Barkat said in a statement on Tuesday.
The PFLP-GC split from Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1968. It was responsible for a number of attacks in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s. It went underground in the late 1980s, but reemerged in 2011 with the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.
This is not the first time Shin Bet has announced the arrest of cells that were planning to carry out operations against individuals or targets.
Last month, Israel announced it arrested a cell in Jerusalem planning to carry out operations against Israeli security. The members, which it said belonged to Hamas, monitored settlements and tried to buy weapons to carry out an operation against soldiers at the bus station.
In February, the security service revealed that an Islamic Jihad plot had been foiled to assassinate Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman. The Shin Bet said the cell planned to assassinate Lieberman by means of a bomb placed on the road in the West Bank as he returned to his home.
According to Israeli figures, last year saw the arrest of more than 100 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, accused of planning to carry out such operations.