Israel’s Shin Bet security service says it has uncovered a vast Hamas network in the occupied West Bank that was planning large-scale attacks against Israelis in occupied Jerusalem.
Hamas did not immediately comment on Thursday’s announcement of the arrests.
The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 30 Hamas fighters who planned to kidnap Israelis and carry out attacks against Jerusalem’s light rail and its largest football stadium, among other targets.
It said the men were trained and recruited in Jordan and Turkey and that various arms and explosives were recovered.
While Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, the West Bank is run by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel prime minister, congratulated the Shin Bet for thwarting the attacks, saying that if carried out they could have exacted a heavy toll of casualties.
“This is one operation that has been published but there are many more that remain secret,” he said of Israel’s intelligence work.
The arrests come amid the worst sustained bout of violence in Israel in nearly a decade and announcements by the Israeli government of new settlement units on occupied Palestinian territory.
Eleven Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks over the past month, including five people who were killed with guns and meat cleavers in an assault on a Jerusalem synagogue.
Most of the violence has occurred in Jerusalem, along with deadly attacks in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank.
The violence has taken place against the background of tensions over access to Jerusalem’s most sacred Islamic site, al-Aqsa Mosque compound or Haram al-Sharif, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
Palestinians fear that Israel wants to allow Jews to pray there, breaking a status quo in effect since 1967.
Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have repeatedly denied the claim but nationalistic politicians have increasingly stirred tensions by visiting the site.
Meanwhile, Israel has introduced new measures to punish those who attack Israelis, including the controversial policy of demolishing their homes.
Critics say it is counterproductive and could worsen an already volatile situation. Al Jazeera