The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) has recently uncovered attempts by the heads of the Hamas military wing in Gaza to establish a terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria in order to carry out major terrorist attacks in Israel.
To this end, terrorists from Hamas in the Gaza Strip recruited Hamas militants in Judea and Samaria, trained them in preparing explosives and ordered them to select crowded sites as locales for attacks.
The activity that was uncovered differs from Hamas’s previous efforts in both scope and potential risk. The infrastructure being organized was designed to create a different reality – inter alia – against the background of events on the Gaza border. As was revealed, the infrastructure was under the direct guidance of the Hamas supreme command in the Gaza Strip, as opposed to Shalit deal deportees, who come from Judea and Samaria.
The intention was to carry out major terrorist attacks by exploiting the entry of sick persons from the Gaza Strip.
The Shin Bet investigation revealed that the leaders of the infrastructure pressured militants in Judea and Samaria to carry out the attacks as soon as possible in order to bring about a security escalation in both the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria.
In order to create a link between the military wing [in Gaza] and militants in Judea and Samaria, Hamas cynically exploited those residents of Gaza who received permits to go to hospitals in Israel for life-saving medical treatment and residents of Gaza who were requested to deliver messages to the militants in Judea and Samaria via their commercial partners there. This is not the first time that Hamas has exploited the humanitarian axis in order to carry out military operations in Judea and Samaria.
The activity of the infrastructure was uncovered following the arrest of Awis Rajoub, 25, a Hamas militant who resides in Dura, near Hebron. Awis was arrested by the ISA and IDF on 23 September after he began to carry out the missions that he had received from the [Hamas] military wing. His arrest was made possible after he coopted several of his friends and relatives into his terrorist activity and used them to purchase materials for use in producing IEDs.
From Awis’ Shin Bet investigation it was learned that he had been recruited by a militant from the Gaza Strip. The militant had contacted him close to the end of Ramadan, suggested to him that he be recruited to the Hamas military wing and noted that he would give him a course on producing remote control IEDs.
On 11 August 2018, Awis was instructed by his Gaza Strip handler to go to a medical warehouse in Ramallah and receive a cellphone to use in the contacts between them.
Several days later Awis was told to meet a messenger from the Bethlehem infrastructure in order to receive a password and additional instructions in using his phone. His handler explained that it would be an older woman from the Gaza Strip who had arrived in Israel for medical treatment. The woman gave Awis trousers into which a cloth strip had been sewn on which instructions for using his phone had been written.
From then on Awis Rajoub used the phone to speak with his handlers in the Gaza Strip and began to receive instructions on how to prepare IEDs from video clips that he received and video calls with the infrastructure’s explosives expert.
From conversations with his Gaza Strip-based handlers, Awis understood the [Hamas] military wing was interested in carrying out a major attack as soon as possible. His handlers explicitly told him that the military wing was interested in promoting attacks in Judea and Samaria. He was also told that the target for the attack would be inside the Green Line since the military wing was interested in a significant target such as a large building, mall, restaurant, hotel, train or bus.
In order to carry out the attack, Awis recruited two Hamas militants from Battir, Yazan and Sayyaf Asafra, whom he instructed to locate appropriate targets for the attack in Israel and to prepare the explosive material for the IED, while he himself worked on preparing the triggering mechanism as per instructions from the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. Awis was told to finish preparing the IED by the end of September 2018 for use in a projected attack in early October 2018. The plot was foiled by Awis arrest on 23 September.
It should be emphasized the militants in Judea and Samaria were instructed in the preparation of IEDs that used advanced explosives that have yet to be used in Judea and Samaria.
Investigation of the case has revealed yet again that the Hamas military wing uses sick people from the Gaza Strip, who have been permitted to enter Israel in order to receive lifesaving treatment, in order to expedite military activity in Judea and Samaria. In this case, the aforementioned messenger from the Gaza Strip was identified by the Shin Bet as Naama Mikdad, 53, a mother of nine children, who accompanied her sister Samira Smot, 47, a resident of Khan Younis, a nurse by profession, who suffers from cancer and whose entry was permitted on 9 August 2018 in order to receive medical treatment.
After meeting Avis Rajoub, the two sisters went – on 16 August – to a café in Ramallah where Hamas militant Fouad Dar Khalil, from Sinjil, worked. He had formerly been imprisoned in Israel for 14 years (2002-2016) over his involvement in a shooting attack on an Israeli vehicle and for preparing additional severe attacks. They gave him a suitcase containing a secret message from the infrastructure. The sisters’ departure from Erez Crossing and the transfer of the secret message was carried with the coordination, and under the guidance, of their uncle Muhammad Abu Kwaik, 36, a Hamas military wing operative, who is known to be in contact with terrorists and to assist them in their operations. Fouad was also arrested by the Shin Bet on 18 October.
The Shin Bet investigation revealed the two women were aware of the contents of the suitcase. They said that they were sent to meet Fouad on behalf of Abu Alabed, Ashraf Sabah, 37, a Hamas militant from the Gaza Strip, who had served 12 years for severe terrorist offenses. It was also learned that Ashraf was behind the recruitment and handling of Fouad.
The secret message said that Fouad was being contacted in order to recruit him for terrorist activity in Israel on behalf of the Hamas military wing and that he was to recruit a cell of local militants to carry out the attacks with him. The author of the message indicated that the Hamas military wing would assist him in acquiring the necessary materials and would send him appropriate financing as well as video clips that explained how to produce the IEDs. The investigation revealed that Fouad Khalil acceded to Ashraf Sabah’s proposal.
A senior Shin Bet official said: “This activity by the Hamas military wing joins a long series of attempts to carry out attacks, directed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, by recruiting militants in Judea and Samaria. These attempts have been foiled by the Shin Bet in recent years and have led to the arrest of hundreds of youths in Judea and Samaria, including students and young women. Thus the Hamas military wing damages the fabric of life of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, entices many of them into terrorist activity for which they are arrested and imprisoned for many years.”
Hamas’s continued attempts to carry out such terrorist activity, in the face of repeated failures, attest to the strategy chosen by the Hamas leadership to undermine the stability in Judea and Samaria at any price. Continued activity by the secret network for carrying out attacks, which is operated by the senior military wing leadership, constitutes a central and dangerous element for instability and is an immediate and substantial threat to the region.