ISA Chief: Hamas Prepared for Another Conflict in Gaza

Speaking before a cabinet meeting, Nadav Argaman said the terror group is ready for renewed conflict with Israel and "continues to deepen its strategic ties with the Shi'ite axis”

The head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA, aka Shin Bet) Nadav Argaman briefed the Israeli ministers Sunday on the threats Israel is facing.

The ISA chief told the cabinet meeting that the relative calm in the West Bank is "fragile," and noted that a similar situation exists in Gaza. While Hamas is in strategic distress, Argaman said the organization is militarily prepared for a renewed confrontation with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

"Despite the relative quiet, the security reality in Judea and Samaria is fragile," Haaretz cited him as saying, referring to the West Bank, adding that the situation includes "high sensitivity regarding events of religious nature and an ongoing threshold of terror attacks."

"There is a high-level alert for attacks both from terror organizations and independent players on the ground," he said.

Hamas, both from its headquarters in the Gaza Strip as well as from abroad, continues to try and carry out attacks in the West Bank and inside the Green Line, in order to undermine overall stability, he said. However, it has been having difficulty doing so due to the steps taken by Israeli security forces to foil the attacks.

Argaman also told the cabinet that, following the shooting attack near the Temple Mount on July 14 where two border policemen were killed, the ISA detected a significant increase in warnings of possible terrorist attacks. In July, he said, there was a threefold increase in the number of terror attack warnings compared to June. "This is a byproduct of the motivation to carry out severe attacks and of a significant increase in harsh rhetoric and incitement on social media calling for lone-wolf attacks," he told the cabinet members.

In recent months, the ISA has foiled the acts of more than 70 local terrorist cells, he said, and since the beginning of the year, the agency has prevented about 200 substantial attacks, including suicide attacks, shootings and abductions. Over the upcoming Jewish High Holy days, an increase is also anticipated in the number of attempts by terrorist organizations and lone-wolf attackers to carry out attacks, he said.

Argaman's situation assessment also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip. According to The Jerusalem Post, the ISA chief said that the Strip is now characterized by a "deceptive calm" – security stability alongside an accelerated military buildup.

The three years since Operation Protective Edge have been the quietest period in Gaza for three decades, Argaman said, with Hamas having difficulty presenting any political achievement for Gaza or providing any effective solutions to the civilian problems there.

"The economic-civilian difficulties in the strip are getting worse," he said. "Rehabilitation of the strip is faltering. There is a serious crisis when it comes to infrastructure. Unemployment is increasing. There is a crisis over (the payment of) salaries and a drop in the gross (domestic) product."

Nevertheless, Argaman stressed that Hamas continues to invest considerable resources for the next round of fighting with Israel, "even at the expense of the well-being of the civilians. The movement is already ready for another confrontation with Israel." As a result, Argaman said, Hamas is deepening its strategic ties with the region's Shia axis, led by Iran, and is establishing an outpost in Lebanon. 

 

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