In recent weeks, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA, also known as Shin Bet), in cooperation with the IDF and the Israel Police, has uncovered an extensive Hamas infrastructure that was directed by senior Hamas officials abroad and which operated throughout Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) in order to perpetrate various attacks – including on a large scale – in Judea and Samaria, and in Jerusalem.
In this context, the ISA, IDF and Israel Police have – in recent weeks – arrested over 50 Hamas militants throughout Judea and Samaria who were involved in establishing the terrorist infrastructure. Money, munitions, weapons and equipment for preparing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were seized.
The activity was financed by senior Hamas officials led by Saleh Arouri, Hamas Deputy Chairman and head of its 'West Bank District', which is located abroad and works to advance Hamas operations in Judea and Samaria, and in Jerusalem.
Working alongside Arouri are additional deportees, one of the most prominent of whom is Zacharia Najib, originally a resident of eastern Jerusalem, who was among the kidnappers of the late soldier Nachson Wachsman. He was released in the Gilat Shalit deal and works to advance Hamas operations in Judea and Samaria.
In 2019, Najib’s involvement was uncovered in planning the assassination of prominent Israelis. Najib has been identified as one of the principal figures in the effort to establish this terrorist infrastructure.
Recruitment and establishing the infrastructure
The terrorist infrastructure recruited militants from various areas in Judea and Samaria, including Ramallah, Hebron and Jenin. Hijazi Kawasmeh was one of the main militants involved in establishing the infrastructure on the ground.
Kawasmeh, 37, a known Hamas militant from Hebron, has been arrested numerous times for Hamas activity, including planning operations. He comes from a family of prominent Hamas militants, chief of whom is Mahmoud Kawasmeh, who was deported to Gaza in the 'Shalit deal' and who works from there to advance Hamas operations in Judea and Samaria.
Hijazi Kawasmeh recruited Hamas militants in Judea and Samaria, including Hamza Zaharan, 40, from Bidu, near Ramallah.
Promise of financing for an abduction
In order to advance the attack, Hijazi Kawasmeh met senior figures from the headquarters abroad and received instructions to carry out attacks. Saleh Arouri offered him approximately one million dollars if an abduction was carried out. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of shekels were transferred to him to expedite the operation.
Zaharan, who has been arrested numerous times for involvement in Hamas operations, including planning attacks, also joined in the effort to establish the terrorist infrastructure and – inter alia – recruited his brother Ahmed Zaharan, as well as additional family members. These worked – with the funds that had been received from abroad – to acquire weaponry and prepare IEDs, which were seized during the ISA operations.
On 26 September, Ahmed Zaharan and two additional militants were killed in exchanges of fire with the security forces during ISA operations against the infrastructure in Bidu.
Locating and seizing materials for manufacturing IED's
The investigations of the militants by the ISA led to operations in the field during which considerable ordnance was seized from the infrastructure, including sufficient explosive material to make three to four explosive belts.
Muhammad Abu Al-Hassan, a Hamas militant from Burkin, and Abdul Ani Khidur, a Hamas militant from Sira, were identified as senior figures in the production of explosives.
Hamas operatives from abroad and Gaza continue their incessant efforts to recruit residents from Judea and Samaria for terrorist activities. These efforts include an ongoing flow of funding for diversified terrorist operations.
One of those most conspicuously involved is Musa Dudin, from Yatir, released and deported in the 'Shalit deal'. He is an associate and right-hand man of Saleh Aruri, who is involved in bringing in terrorist money through Hamas emissaries in Judea and Samaria. This activity recently led to the thwarting of the terrorist infrastructure in the Hebron area.
"This is an extensive and significant pre-emptive thwarting of a dangerous terrorist infrastructure, which had planned a series of attacks,” said a senior ISA official. “The purpose of the intensified terrorist activity of Hamas operatives abroad and in Gaza, through operatives in the Judea and Samaria, is to undermine stability in the area, while exacting a heavy price from local residents."
The ISA, together with the IDF and the Israel Police, will continue to take resolute action against Hamas recruitment and the organization's efforts to strengthen itself in Judea and Samaria, in order to reach all those involved in these efforts and thwart them in advance.