JERUSALEM, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Israel foiled a massive Hamas cell that operated in the West Bank and Jerusalem to destabilize the region and topple the Palestinian Authority, Israel's domestic security agency Shin Bet announced on Monday.
With its headquarters in Turkey, the Hamas cell which planned to launch a series of deadly attacks on Israeli targets has been foiled, the Shin Bet said in a statement, adding that 93 members in 46 Palestinian cities and villages across the West Bank have been arrested in recent months.
"This infrastructure... is one of the biggest we've seen in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] since Hamas' formation in 1987," The Jerusalem Post quoted a senior Shin Bet agent as saying on Monday.
The agent said the infrastructure, uncovered in May, received financial support of 600,000 U.S. dollars, delivered by Jordanian couriers, for the purchase of weapons, vehicles and hideouts. The Shin Bet has seized the money, as well as 30 firearms, seven rocket launchers and ammunition.
The Shin Bet has named Salah Al-Aruri, who directs Hamas' operations in the West Bank, as the mastermind, who has been living in Turkey since his release from an Israeli prison several years ago. A second leading suspect was identified as Riad Nasser, a senior Hamas figure, who has been in Israeli custody since last December and was allegedly appointed to head the infrastructure.
The infrastructure recruited Palestinian students majored in chemistry and engineering to assist the planned coup, one of whom was Majdi Mafarja, who holds a PhD in computer sciences and who the Shin Bet said represented "a new generation" of Hamas operatives.
Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' leader in Qatar, and the Turkish government, were aware of the plot, the Shin Bet said. The uncovering of the infrastructure attests to the high risk posed by Hamas' headquarters overseas and its "strategic intentions" to bring about the collapse of the PA, the statement said.
"They planned to undermine security, and launch a third intifada. They planned disturbances in the Temple Mount to rile the Palestinian masses. They were waiting for talks between the Israel and PA to collapse," a Shin Bet source said.
The Shin Bet said some of the attacks that aimed to facilitate a coup were to take place in recent weeks, as Israel waged war against Hamas militants in Gaza.
Over 70 suspects have been indicted in Israeli military tribunals in the West Bank over the last few days.