Photo Credit: Screenshot
The bombed out car of Hamed al-Khoudary, a Hamas operative responsible for transferring funds from Iran to Gaza. A missile killed him on May 5, 2019.

{Originally posted to the JCPA website}

The bombed out car of Hamed al-Khoudary, a Hamas operative responsible for transferring funds from Iran to Gaza. A missile killed him on May 5, 2019. (Arab press screenshot)


The shadow “battle of wits” continues at full throttle between Hamas and the Israeli intelligence services, despite the discovery several months ago of an IDF Special Forces unit operating in the Khan Yunis area that Hamas claimed was involved in special intelligence activity.

Fatah elements in the Gaza Strip say that following the recent round of hostilities Hamas is very worried that precise intelligence information in the hands of the IDF led to strikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets.

They claim that this intelligence was provided by Palestinian agents and collaborators working in the field who passed information to Israeli intelligence. Israel is managing to run agents in Gaza in spite of heavy punishments imposed by Hamas on anyone who collaborates with Israel. Usually this involves a speedy military trial and execution – an example to be seen and feared.

Hamas is now using the month of Ramadan to its benefit to play on the religious sentiments of collaborators with Israel living in Gaza.

On May 17, 2019, Hamas’ security site, Al-Majd, issued a call to all collaborators to repent and return to the bosom of the Palestinian people.

A Sophisticated Method of Recruiting Agents

Apparently, what is bothering Hamas is the sophisticated method used by Israeli intelligence to recruit agents and collaborators in the Gaza Strip “without leaving any fingerprints,” and without them even knowing they are working for the State of Israel.

Hamas website Al-Risalah published an article on May 19, 2019, written by Rami Abu Zubaydah entitled, “Be on the alert for recruitment from behind the scenes!”

The article details the cunning methods used by Israeli intelligence to recruit Gaza residents who innocently believe they are not passing on information that would serve the State of Israel. Those recruited transfer the information via social media networks or through research and business sites.

Summary execution of suspected Gazan collaborators by Hamas gunmen

According to the author, Israeli intelligence is recruiting agents through deception and paying them for their services. These Palestinian agents believe they are working for one of the following bodies:

  1. A TV channel or news site,
  2. Research institute,
  3. Humanitarian aid organization,
  4. International organization,
  5. Positive Internet campaign.

The campaign is run through a third party using slogans that are “pleasant to the ear.”

The method of “the unwitting courier” or “unwitting agent” is not new. Israeli intelligence services are not the only ones employing it. Other intelligence services also use this method, and it is hard to uncover if well-planned in advance.

Unlike the recruitment of agents and collaborators through regular means where the recruit knows very well that he is connected to a certain intelligence body that he works for and for which he receives payment, with the technique of the “unwitting spy,” the recruit knows nothing and does his work in all innocence. Therefore, when unmasked, he is shocked when he learns from his captors that he had been working as an agent unwittingly.

It is possible that Israeli intelligence has increased its usage of this method for recruiting spies following a large wave of arrests carried out by Hamas’ security apparatus in Gaza to locate the network of collaborators that aided the IDF Special Forces unit in the Khan Yunis area.

“Human intelligence,” or “HUMINT” in intelligence terminology, is a method of gathering intelligence that cannot be halted. It is impossible to rely only upon electronic or visual means or on open intelligence that appears in the media or on social media networks to create a complete intelligence picture to successfully deal with the terror organizations in Gaza.

Israeli intelligence generally uses every breach to gather precise information on terror organizations in Gaza. One striking example of this was the targeted assassination of Hamed al-Khoudary, a money-courier and member of the Hamas military wing. He was assassinated during the recent round of hostilities while driving in his car in central Gaza City.

Sometimes the simplest intelligence information provided by an “unwitting agent” without his knowledge is what creates the success of an intelligence operation.

The author of the article on the Al-Risala website warns Gaza residents not to give out any free information on social media networks that could serve the Israeli enemy. However, according to expert security sources, it is very easy for holders of Facebook and Twitter accounts to get led astray on social media through various temptations.

(Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority)

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The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) is a leading independent research institute specializing in public diplomacy and foreign policy. Founded in 1976, the Center has produced hundreds of studies and initiatives by leading experts on a wide range of strategic topics.