Arrests of 100+ ‘Hamas agents’ in West Bank seem to be Israel’s latest effort to thwart Palestinian reconciliation

Israeli security forces report that they have arrested at least 100 suspected members of Hamas and claim to have foiled multiple bombing and kidnapping plots. These actions would seem to indicate a severe setback for Hamas’s influence in the Occupied Territories and undermine prospects for reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. With the UN vote approaching, the timing of the announcement can only help buttress the Netanyahu government’s security credentials after the embarrassment of the August 18th Eilat attacks. The arrests also coincide with a major media and diplomatic campaign by the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian activists ahead of the UN vote for recognition of a Palestinian state.

The Israeli government states that it is not holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for the cells’ presence in the Occupied Territories and that the IDF is “cooperating” with Ramallah to conduct further security sweeps and prepare for Palestinian demonstrations later this month. The following information has been officially released:

On Wednesday (September 7), it was released for publication that the IDF, Israel Security Agency and Israel Police prevented a major terrorist attack in Jerusalem last month.

The attack was thwarted after a terrorist had already entered Jerusalem planning to activate an explosive device on a bus or at a shopping mall in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood [ed note: According to unnamed sources, the "explosive device" was being delivered to a suicide bomber - Ynet reports that the alleged suicide bomber, a 20-year old male from Hebron, is now in police custody].

The attack was prevented through joint operations by the IDF, ISA and police. During those operations, members of 13 terrorist cells (around 100 terrorists) were arrested. The detained terrorists included some senior operatives.

The ISA has noted that Hamas has been trying to rehabilitate its military infrastructure in Judea and Samaria in order to carry out attacks against Israeli targets.

According to the ISA, Hamas leadership abroad (in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) has provided funding, guidance and training for the establishment of terrorist infrastructure. Hamas in the Gaza Strip has been involved as well, attempting to move weaponry into Judea and Samaria and providing funding for terrorist activities.

Questioning of detained terrorists has revealed that they were instructed to carry out a kidnapping in order to bargain for the release of prisoners [according to media reports, these capture operations constituted the cells' main operational preparations].

Some of those arrested are being linked to a bus bombing in Jerusalem this past March. Connections with Hamas cells and fundraisers in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Turkey and China have been alluded to by the IDF and Shin Bet.

Few of the arrested individuals have yet been identified, though the Israeli media report that most of those being held in custody are “repeat offenders.” These arrests follow the detention of amnestied Hamas founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef (better known as the father of the Shin Bet’s former Hamas double agent Mosab Hassan Yousef).

Regarding that arrest, Defense Minister Ehud Barak had this to say, which reflects the Israeli government’s position on these most recent arrests:

“Readiness is very high. We are determined to strike at those carrying out the attacks, to take action as much as possible to intercept the attack and we are reiterating that responsibility stems from the Gaza Strip. It is not just Islamic Jihad but also Hamas.”

It looks like every player in this game is running out of options these days.

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine, US Politics | Tagged

{ 8 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. lysias says:

    Could this be an Israeli attempt to sow dissension between the PA and Hamas?

  2. piotr says:

    I am rather sceptical, to put it mildly.

    The problem is that Israeli security forces lie a lot and have unlimited capacity for creating false evidence (not that they show much of it).

    • Paul Mutter says:

      When the Eilat attacks occurred, I suggested that given their timing and location, there was a possibility that a group based in Egypt, and not Gaza, might have been involved because it would have been a good strategic move for them to sneak over the border and attack Israelis. This opinion was largely not present in most press coverage – the Israeli government assigned blame to one group and held Hamas “responsible,” resulting in airstrikes and saber-rattling to go into Gaza and finish the job. Some outlets continued to make the distinction between “alleged” and “confirmed” attackers, noting that no group in Gaza had claimed responsibility. Other outlets did not, and presented the government’s statements at face value.

      Then, a few days into the airstrikes, Egypt said that some of the alleged attackers killed were in fact Egyptians from Sinai groups that their army is fighting against. Press then began backtracking and started talking less about Hamas’ alleged involvement and Egyptian “unreliability” and more about the need to not give up on Egypt in her hour of need fighting Islamists.

      So I do in fact hope that people will consider the timing of the announcement arrests and consider the possibility that there was indeed a political motivation behind them.

  3. It should be pointed out that probably none of these arrests could have taken place without the collaboration of the PA’s militia whose job it has been to suppress Palestinian resistance to Israel’s continuing occupation.

    I am not aware that the PA’s Vichy-style militia has ever come to the defense of the Palestinians when they have been under hunted down by Israel’s occupation forces. Should there be a Palestinian Bantustan ministate established at any point in the future, it is likely the militia’s current role will continue unchanged.

  4. Charon says:

    Just who exactly is Hamas anyways? The political and militant variants are apparently unrelated. Hamas is in Gaza which is only 146 square miles and Israel has the superior military. They cannot honestly call them a real threat or even say they are at war with a straight face once you realize this. Israel assassinated all of the original Hamas leaders who wrote the infamous charter which the political Hamas doesn’t use. Israel allowed Hamas to participate in the elections. Some say Israel wanted Hamas to win and their Sayanim have infiltrated the militants. There is evidence of this even, clear evidence, not circumstantial. (“Al Qaeda” Hamas in Gaza arrested turned out to be Sayanim, guys in full face masks with star of David tattoos on chest…)

    So what is Hamas anyway? Seems to be one acronym for a bunch of unrelated groups of people. That and a boogeyman. Nice try Israel, the timing is suspect as always. Same ol’ tricks don’t work. The world is yawning, they yawned even at last month’s ‘terror’ attack.

  5. Michael W. says:

    The Hamas operatives actually got a warning ahead of time of when the IDF raids would happen, but because they had their clocks set to Gaza time instead of Ramallah time, the IDF came one hour earlier than they anticipated.

  6. piotr says:

    It is hard to evaluate the story on thwarting a thirteen terrorists cells and one suicide bombing, but it comes very shortly after extremely unbelievable explanations following Eilat terrorist raid and killings in Gaza afterwards.

    First we learned that IDF KNOWS that attackers were from Gaza.

    Next there was a correction: most probably from Gaza because they had Kalashnikov rifles and bullets. But they were not, however the guilty guys in Gaza were killed in large numbers. And they were guilty because

    a. they scouted the area for the Sinai Beduins; the attackers from Sinai were not familiar with the art of scouting in the desert so specialists from Gaza crossed the borders in tunnels, went 100 kilometers south and returned; very very likely.

    b. they wired money from Gaza to the attackers. The money was smuggled to Gaza, deposited in the bank and wired to Sinai back.

    As the bodies of the killed militants in Gaza were cooling, their guilt was firmly established but actual role was quickly evolving. It reminds a women alleged by activist in West Bank to die as a result of tear gas. In short succession the “true cause of death” was honor killing, leukemia or liver cancer, some less specified illness and finally, inadequate care for gas inhalation. We also “learned” that she was not close to the gassed demonstration (actually true, because the entire village was gassed, not just those who were close).

    In any case, because Egypt was intervening against the planned Cast Lead II and the proofs were piling up that Hamas was involved neither in the primary attack nor in secondary shooting back following “retaliatory” killings of the militants, Israel announced “restrain” in the form of just few more killings and a wave of arrests. 250 were arrested, 70 kept in the arrest. A thorough investigation discovered Hamasnik preschool in Jerusalem which was promptly closed, organizers of the preschool included two “almost terrorists” who were too terroristic to allow them to operate a preschool that could be used to organize terror attacks, but insufficiently terroristic to be actually detained. You see, some terrorists are weird, and once you deprive them of a preschool where they could work they are basically harmless.

    And besides a terroristic preschool, 13 cells were discovered. And General Eisenstein discovered harbingers of an approaching all-out war.

    Other related piece of news confused me because I did not check dates: the information was released now but the event happened two years ago. The chief of IDF nutrition warfare unit gave permission to allow importation of humus into Gaza after several years of ban, except for “hummus with extras, such as pine nuts or mushrooms”. Moreover, he “had allowed bringing chickpeas, from which hummus is made, into Gaza a few months earlier, together with other legumes that had been banned there since 2007.”

    Observe and learn! Nutrition warfare is not simply starving the enemy. It is a subtle weapon, the chief objective is to allow sufficient amount of food for the enemy to survive (a monument to the Benevolence of the State) and merely stopping food items that are healthy, and most of all, tasty. But effectiveness decreases when the enemy, and wives and daughters, and the children from the terroristic preschools forget the taste of the forbidden foods, so one has to allow sometimes more, sometime less. In the middle of this delicate operation comes terroristic armada that could ruin the effect in so many ways, say by bringing pine nuts and mushroom.

    No military command has tasks of equal complexity: keeping track of legumes, kuskus and bulghur, all types of condiments, herbs and spices, and terror cells, hostile trees (there are special tree cutting units), hostile fishing boats, school supplies, anti-ship missiles, special airforce units for making laud “boooo!!!!”, well demolishing units, and back-to-back emergencies, say that a group of little old ladies from Michigan has to be beaten up, and there are skunk water units to dispatch, and of course this is just what we know from the press, ingrate settlers who disable military vehicles.