A Palestinian man has been arrested in Israel on suspicion of intentionally sabotaging cooking gas lines in Israeli apartment buildings in order to cause massive explosions while the families were home, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service and Jerusalem police announced Wednesday.
The suspect, identified as 48-year-old Aziz Musa Uwisat of East Jerusalem, confessed that he was inspired by news reports about a building that exploded in Jerusalem in January due to a gas leak, killing four residents. He decided to try to engineer a similar event “in order to kill as many people as he could,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
A statement released by the Shin Bet on Wednesday said Uwisat “reached the decision to carry out an attack along similar lines, with the intent of toppling a building, resulting in the deaths of its Jewish inhabitants.”
Israel’s Channel 2 News reported that the suspect, a father of six, was known to Israeli security forces as a Hamas operative.
“His motive was nationalistic, that is certain,” an unnamed security official told the Jerusalem Post.
Israeli media reports said the suspect told investigators that he was seeking revenge for Israeli military actions in Gaza and the visits by Jews to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism that is also revered by Muslims.
Based on his confession, details of which were made public Wednesday, Uwisat, acting alone, cut residential gas pipes on three occasions at the end of February and earlier this month. On March 5, he left a lit candle and other flammable materials at the scene of the cut gas lines, but when neighbors in three buildings reported strong smells of leaking gas, two severed lines were discovered before any explosion occurred.
First responders evacuated residents, turned off the gas lines and ventilated the buildings, the Tazpit News Agency reported last week following the last incident.
“The pipes were intentionally cut which caused extreme danger, so police evacuated three buildings in the area and shut off the gas supply,” a police officer told the Jerusalem Post following that incident. “Thankfully, we managed to prevent an explosion.”
Israeli police said the suspect also confessed to attacking a 70-year-old Israeli man with an ax in Jerusalem’s Old City in 2012. The victim was seriously injured.