JERUSALEM – Emboldened by Hamas claims of victory against Israeli forces in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Cloud, Hamas strongman Khalid Meshaal has ordered pro-Hamas militias across the West Bank to prepare for a military takeover of the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority under the guise of a “popular uprising” against Israel.
Though Israeli forces pounded hundreds of Hamas military targets across the Gaza Strip in Operation Pillar of Cloud, the terror group’s West Bank military infrastructure in Shechem and Hebron was unaffected. Indeed, although under scrutiny by rival PA police during the past few years, it managed to quietly rearm itself during the operation.
In early December, thousands of pro-Hamas supporters in Shechem and Hebron took to the streets to celebrate what it considered victory in Gaza, waving anti-Israeli banners and displaying replicas of the Fajr missiles, which were fired at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Despite reports of an inevitable unity arrangement between Hamas and the PA, a growing number of Fatah leaders fear that Hamas’s growing influence will result in a military and political putsch in Ramallah.
Tawfik Tirawi, a long-time member of Fatah’s security apparatus, told the Sunday Times of London, “We’re on the verge of catastrophe. Hamas wants an intifada and only a spark is needed to light the inferno. Hamas will take over the West Bank.”
According to informed sources, Iran, which may lose its hegemony in Syria to anti-Assad rebels within the next few months – and subsequently in Lebanon as well – is desperate to ignite a conflict with Israel in order to deflect global attention away from its nuclear weapons program, whose main target is the Jewish state.
During the past two months, pro-Hamas forces in Hebron and East Jerusalem have initiated terror attacks inside Israel, as well as violent clashes with IDF soldiers. Several weeks ago, a pro-Hamas resident of East Jerusalem planted an explosive device on a Tel Aviv bus and then calmly returned to his job at a kosher McDonald’s franchise in the Modiin mall. He was arrested several hours later.
On Monday, an Arab East Jerusalem taxi driver deliberately smashed into several cars and injured a border policeman in what the driver himself described as a “nationally motivated” incident.
Recognizing the upsurge in pro-Hamas motivated violence against soldiers and civilians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz at the IDF’s Central Command headquarters in Tel Aviv. The Central Command is responsible for all military operations in the West Bank.
Netanyahu told reporters, “Our goal is to maintain the security of Israeli citizens in the settlements, and the entire country. We are aware of an increase in activity, and I want to get an exact briefing. We must act here, as on other fronts, to ensure the country’s security, and that is what we are doing.”
A high-ranking Israeli government official told the Sunday Times of London that Netanyahu is “maneuvering to halt Iran and Hamas from gaining dominion of the territory.”
The IDF has beefed up its security patrols in the West Bank and urged the PA police to once again crack down on Hamas agitators in Shechem and Hebron. Israel’s security services are trying to also prevent the smuggling of rockets into the West Bank. A single crude Kassam rocket fired from a West Bank plateau could easily reach most of the metropolitan Tel Aviv region, Ben-Gurion Airport, and Jerusalem.Steve K. Walz
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