Israelis arrested for Hamas Sinai kidnapping plot

Four Israelis were arrested for their involvement in a kidnapping operation in Sinai that involved kidnapping Eritrean migrants and then extorting their family in Israel to pay up to $15,000 in ransom, police revealed on Sunday.

Four Jews from Netanya, one of whom is a minor, were arrested for serving as contacts between the Eritrean migrants in Israel and an east Jerusalem man and suspected Hamas operative named Luai Nasser Al-Din. Al-Din allegedly transferred the money to Hamas in Ramallah.

According to police, the month-long undercover investigation began as a straightforward investigation into money transferred from Al-Din to Hamas. Upon further questioning, they discovered Al-Din was involved in at least one kidnapping, which believed to be part of a larger operation.

The kidnapping in question took place on August 25, when a man named Salam in Sinai made contact with an Eritrean migrant living in Tel Aviv and said he had kidnapped his nephew, and he would need to pay 50,000 NIS in two days in order for him to live. Salam put the man’s nephew on the phone, who begged his uncle to save his life.

The family paid the money to two of the Netanya men during a clandestine meeting at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. The men then brought the money to Al-Din, who owns a cellphone store on Salah a-Din Street, who was supposed to transfer the money to Hamas in Ramallah.

Police arrested Al-Din approximately a month ago, just after the meeting with the two Netanya men, with the ransom money in his store. Nasser al-Din's lawyer, Lea Tsemel, denied on Sunday that the money was ransom money and that it was destined for Ramallah. Police have investigated Al-Din in the past for involvement in Hamas activities but according to Tsemel he was released without charge.

Police believe the suspects were involved with six money transfers to Hamas between NIS 10,000 to NIS 15,000, although only one appears to be involved in the kidnapping. Police said the Netanya men got caught up in the operation after meeting Arab workers who worked at the same construction site, who were allegedly involved in money transfers and kidnapping Eritrean migrants. During the investigation, the men told police that they did not know the money was destined for Hamas.

On Sunday, indictments for Yaakov Grad of Kfar Yonah and Eliran Moshe of Netanya on counts of kidnapping for the purposes of murder and extortion were filed in Jerusalem District Court.

An indictment against Victor Savioni of Netanya on counts of assisting the commission of a felony and illegal border infiltration was filed in Jerusalem Magistrate Court.

Al-Din was remanded for an additional five days on the suspicion of membership in an illegal organization and kidnapping at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court. The Jewish minor was released to house arrest.

The indictments were filed separately according to the severity of the crimes and the potential sentences, as district courts have jurisdiction over more serve crimes and magistrate courts over less severe crimes.

Earlier this year, a resident of the Negev Beduin city of Rahat was indicted for membership in a crime ring that abducted Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Sinai, allegedly holding them hostage in order to extort tens of thousands of dollars in ransoms from their family members in Israel.

Also last year, the Hotline for Migrant Workers released a report that detailed the horrifying ordeals reportedly suffered by African migrants to Israel held captive by Beduin smugglers in Sinai.

(Source: Jerusalem Post)


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