Israel busts Hamas terror cell that planned to carry out attacks against high profile targets, including a Conservative lawmaker

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According to a report from Breitbart News, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency arrested a Hamas terror cell comprised of east Jerusalem Palestinians who allegedly planned to carry out attacks against high profile targets, including hawkish Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir.

Five men in total were arrested for planning a shooting attack against Ben Gvir, in addition to kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and a suicide bomb attack in Jerusalem.

Authorities reportedly seized a drone as well that was allegedly intended to be weaponized for an attack on Jerusalem’s light rail. Breitbart News reported that:

“The cell’s leader Rashid Rashek, from Jerusalem’s Old City, was described by authorities as a ‘prominent’ Hamas operative who was also in charge of mobilizing Hamas supporters to riot at the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ‘in order to destabilize the Temple Mount and Jerusalem.'”

Ben Gvir reacted to the Shin Bet’s announcement by blaming the Hamas plot on “leftists,” as well as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Gvir said in a statement:

“The writing was on the wall. The incitement of the leftists against me and the statements of Bennett and Lapid toward me did their part and it turns out that a squad of terrorists planned to try to harm me and my family … Words can kill!”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Israel against allowing right-wing Israelis to hold the annual “Flag March” in Jerusalem’s Old City to mark Jerusalem Day, which falls on a Sunday. Speaking by video in front of a crowd in Gaza, Haniyeh said:

“I want to clearly warn the enemy against committing these crimes and these steps. The Palestinian people, led by the resistance – especially those in the West Bank and Jerusalem – will not permit this Jewish Talmudic rubbish to go unanswered.”

He added:

“Our decision is clear and unhesitating … We will resist with all our capabilities and we will not permit the violation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque or thuggery in the streets of Jerusalem.”

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Jerusalem Day, which marks Israel’s conquest of the Old City and East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, is celebrated by national-religious Jews, most prominently by youths who march through the capital while dancing with Israeli flags. Palestinians have long viewed the march as a provocation.

The 2021 march was held as tensions skyrocketed between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem. Israeli authorities altered the route of the 2021 march an hour before it was set to be held following Hamas threats.

However, Hamas nonetheless fired rockets toward Jerusalem during the march. The rocket fire sparked the 2021 11-day warn between Israel and Gaza terror groups. Hamas has vowed not to allow Israel to repeat the yearly rally.

A masked spokesperson for a cluster of Gaza terror groups, including Hamas, followed up with comments after Haniyeh’s speech. The spokesperson said:

“Our people will absolutely not allow Israel to break the rules of engagement and allow a return to provocations.”

This year’s march again comes amidst rolling tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. Since March 22nd, a wave of deadly terror attacks have struck Israeli cities, killing 19 – the bloodiest violence outside of war in years.

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ISIS terrorist faces life in prison (but not death) after conviction in hostage plot that killed four Americans

April 16th, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, VA – A federal jury on Thursday convicted a former British citizen for his role in a notorious ISIS hostage plot that led to the deaths of four Americans, three of whom were beheaded.

After a six-week trial and four hours of deliberations, a jury in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, found El Shafee Elsheikh, 33, guilty on all eight counts, including lethal hostage-taking and conspiracy to commit murder. He faces up to life in prison.

The jury concluded that he was part of an Islamic State terrorist cell, nicknamed “The Beatles” for their British accents, that beheaded American hostages in Iraq and Syria.

Former hostages, released by the cell after extensive negotiations, testified about the torture they endured at the hands of “The Beatles.” Family members of the deceased victims also testified.

Even though Elsheikh could have received a death sentence for his crimes, U.S. prosecutors have advised British officials that they will not seek the ultimate penalty.

Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey asked to be extradited to the United States rather than face a judge in Iraq, where they likely would have been given harsher sentences.  A third member, Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” died in a Hellfire missile drone strike in Syria in 2015. Cell member Aine Lesley Davis was captured by Turkish security and sent to prison.

 

 

Kotey and Elsheikh, who was born in Sudan and raised in London, had their British citizenship revoked in 2018.

Elsheikh was accused of conspiring to kill four Americans who had been taken hostage: Journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Foley, Sotloff and Kassig were killed in videotaped beheadings.

Mueller was raped repeatedly by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, before her death in Syria, U.S. officials have said. How she died has not been confirmed, with some reports saying she was killed in Jordanian and U.S. airstrikes. Photographs released by her captors do not indicate any bomb blast injuries, but rather blunt force trauma.

They were among 26 hostages taken captive between 2012 and 2015 by the Islamic State, when the terror group controlled large regions of Iraq and Syria.

Elsheikh and Kotey were captured together by the Kurdish-led Syrian Defense Forces in 2018 and brought to Virginia in 2020 to face trial.

Kotey pleaded guilty last September to the murders of Foley, Sotloff, Mueller and Kassig.

During opening arguments in Elsheikh’s trial, the defendant’s  lawyer, Ed MacMahon, called him a “simple ISIS fighter” and attempted to cast doubt on whether he was one of “The Beatles.”

The captors wore masks and had similar accents, making it difficult for hostages to identify them, he argued. MacMahon said:

“It was horrific and senseless. None of that is in dispute. What is in dispute — and what you must decide — is whether Mr. Elsheikh bears any legal responsibility.”

In a 2018 interview with CNN, they did not accept responsibility for the crimes:

“Confronted by CNN with the fact several of their former hostages and alleged victims had said they recognized their faces and voices from previous interviews, Elsheikh declined to comment on what he said would be a legal matter. ‘It’s just an accusation, legally speaking.

You know, if Britain said ‘we are going to deal with you by barbaric law, or with law from the medieval ages,’ then hang, draw and quarter me. But that’s not the case. I’m just merely pointing that out.’ Kotey offered a similarly veiled denial and refused to be drawn on specific allegations.”

“The Beatles,” who guarded foreign hostages for ISIS commanders, were said to be crueler than other  guards. According to a freed French hostage, they were the most feared of the jihadists for their cruel acts, including electric shocks, taser guns, mock executions and waterboarding.

The group tortured and beat prisoners and forced them to fight each other until they collapsed. Surviving hostages testified that the captors delighted themselves rewriting the Eagles’ “Hotel California” as “Hotel Osama” and making the captives sing the refrain “You will never leave.”

Elsheikh’s guilty verdict came even though none of the surviving hostages could identify him as one of their captors. Although the “Beatles” had distinctive accents, they took care to hide their faces behind masks and ordered hostages to avoid eye contact or they would be beaten.

Randall Rogan, a terrorism expert and professor of communication at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, said the trial was a “strike for justice,” he told Voice of America on Thursday. Rogan said:

“It’s great news that the witnesses were able to pull themselves together and be able to testify under such difficult circumstances for themselves and having to revisit the horrors of that time for themselves and for their families.

“Hopefully, this is a positive note, a strike for justice, that this individual is ultimately being held accountable for the atrocities that he committed.”

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Terror alert: Commander of the U.S. Central Command says ISIS attacks will ramp up as the summer months approach

March 17, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday, March 15th, Fox News reported that General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), said that the Taliban is failing in their efforts to shut down ISIS in Afghanistan.

The CENTCOM commander also stated that due to this, it appears likely that as the summer months draw closer, ISIS terror attacks will increase.

While speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said that even though the Taliban has been “less firm” when it comes to opposing al Qaeda, they have demonstrated a commitment to taking on ISIS, even if it is not enough.

In response to a question from Sen. Angus King (I-ME), McKenzie said:

“The Taliban is attempting to maintain pressure on ISIS. They’re finding it difficult to do so.”

The commander noted that in recent months, ISIS has carried out “some high-profile attacks” in Afghanistan, including in the capital city of Kabul. He added:

“We’re coming out of the winter, traditionally this would now begin the fighting season. It is my expectation that ISIS attacks will ramp up in Afghanistan as we go into the summer.”

While speaking to the Committee, McKenzie did not seem all that confident that the Taliban would stop al Qaeda from being active, saying that he believes “they’re much less firm on the al Qaeda issue as far as opposing them and being able to limit them.”

According to Fox News, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and its former leader Osama bin Laden prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

After nearly 20-years of war that saw them temporarily removed from power, the Taliban swiftly re-gained control of Afghanistan in August of 2021 after the botched American troops withdrawal.

 

During the U.S. withdrawal, ISIS-K carried out a suicide bombing at an airport in Kabul, causing several casualties, including 13 U.S. service members.

According to a report from USNI News, the U.S. is gathering over-the-horizon intelligence on terrorist activities in Afghanistan, but has not made a strike against ISIS-K and al Qaeda. During his remarks with the Senate Armed Services Committee, McKenzie added that ISIS-K has been re-constituting itself.

He said that current intelligence estimates predict that within 12 to 18 months, the group might be able to attack targets outside Afghanistan.

While the security situation in parts of Afghanistan may have improved since the Taliban takeover in August of 2021, McKenzie said, “I’m not sure it’s a place you want to be.”

In addition to the ISIS-K attacks, the commander cited the Taliban’s continued reprisals against former Afghan government officials and the elimination of opportunities for women and for girls’ education.

The United States does not recognize the Taliban regime as Afghanistan’s government, however, McKenzie said, “there are levers we can apply” to change conditions there.

The Taliban wants international recognition as the legal government and McKenzie said that diplomacy and economic aid could sway its behavior.

According to reports, McKenzie’s comments come months after he had told the House Armed Services Committee in September 2021, that it is “yet to be seen” whether the U.S. can deny al Qaeda and ISIS the ability to use Afghanistan to launch its attacks. At the time he said:

“We could get to that point, but I do not yet have that level of confidence.”

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