In a joint operation, the Shin Bet, Israel Police and the IDF uncovered and prevented the operation of a terror cell in the Chevron area that was operated and funded by an Iranian agent. The leader of the Chevron gang was Muhammad Mahamara, 29, a resident of the city and a computer engineering student. He was arrested along with other members of the gang.
According to the Shin Bet, Mahamara was recruited to the gang by a cousin, Bachar Mahamara, also a resident of Chevron, who had lived for a number of years in South Africa. Investigations by Israeli officials indicated that Iran had been using South Africa as a recruitment base for Israeli and PA Arabs to organize terror cells in Israel. Bachar Mahamara, who was also arrested as part of the operation, admitted that he had been acting on behalf of Iranian intelligence, and told investigators that he had spent a great deal of time and effort in recruiting Arab residents of Palestinian Authority-held areas for terror activities, to be funded by Iran.
Bachar Mahamara invited his cousin Muhammad to visit South Africa in 2015, and there officially inducted him into the operation. There, Muhammad Mahamara met with Iranian agents — several of whom came from Tehran to meet him — and assigned him several missions, including recruiting a suicide bomber, a sharpshooter who could carry out a rifle attack, and taking surveillance videos and photos of Israeli targets. He was also offered the opportunity to take a special course that would teach him to build bombs and other explosives.
The Iranian agents suggested that Muhammad Mahamara open a computer store in the Chevron area, which would serve as a focal point for the terror activity, as well as a surveillance source to provide the Iranians with an “inside view” of Chevron. He was also asked to acquire SIM cards for Israeli cell-phone service companies, as well as to collect Israeli currency, ostensibly for Iranian terrorists who would need money when they entered Israel in order to carry out attacks. He was also asked to approach Israeli Arabs, especially journalists with press cards, which would give them access to official events with government officials.
Also arrested were another relative, Nur Mahamara, 22, and friend Di’a Sarahana, 22, both of Chevron, and both recruited by Muhammad Mahamara. For his work, Muhammad Mahamara received $8,000 from the Iranians. Indictments were filed against all four in recent days. Muhammad Mahamara is charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy to commit terror acts, contact with enemy agents, receiving money from terror sources, and other crimes.
“The activity that was uncovered shines a light on the involvement of Iranian agents in the terror threat that Israel faces,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “Iran has agents that are actively targeting Israelis, and they are operating from various places in the world. Their objective is to increase hostile actions and terror attacks against Israelis.”