Major Claim by Israel’s Shin Bet — Hamas Launched Serious Plot in West Bank to Overthrow Fatah’s Palestinian Authority
by YOSSI MELMAN in Tel Aviv
Israel’s domestic security agency, Shin Bet, claims that it uncovered a serious plot by Hamas – including unprecedented military preparations – to start an uprising in the West Bank: not only against Israel, but against the Palestinian Authority.
According to Shin Bet, Hamas’s goals in the West Bank included – at some stage – “a military coup” to topple the P.A., which is led by the late Yasser Arafat’s al-Fatah faction. In the Gaza Strip in 2007, after winning an election there, Hamas fighters soundly defeated al-Fatah men – killing many and forcing the survivors to leave.
Shin Bet officials, in issuing details today, insist that this is all true – and not an Israeli invention aimed at jamming a huge wedge between Hamas and the P.A. The officials deny any connection with the fact that all day Monday, there was high tension over not knowing if a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas would be extended to allow for more negotiations in Cairo.
Hamas is branded a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, and many other governments. The Fatah faction, which as the P.A. has engaged in negotiations with Israel on-and-off for 21 years, is considered to be relatively moderate. (Rightwing Israelis argue that Fatah also backs terrorism and does not truly want to live in peace alongside a Jewish state of Israel.)
Shin Bet says its information about “military” organizing by Hamas in the West Bank is based on interrogations of recently arrested suspects. Information is being released at this time, because it is in legal documents that formalize charges against around 70 Hamas members.
The officials tell of 93 arrests in the current investigation, including a man who allegedly was recruited in Malaysia where he studied computer sciences. Hamas had him trained for code-breaking and cyberwarfare.
According to information cleared by Israeli authorities for publication, the Hamas military organizing began in May – unrelated to the kidnap and murder of three young Israeli men in the West Bank a month later.
Over the weekend, the Israeli army destroyed the family homes of two Palestinians who are the prime suspects in the murder of the three Israelis. Human rights organizations complained that this was “collective punishment,” without any court indictments, trials, or convictions.
As for the “military” plot including a coup to take over the P.A., Shin Bet officials say the plan was hatched by Hamas activists in Turkey – with others in Jordan involved in the planning.
The plan included severe terrorist attacks inside Israel, launched from the West Bank, that would trigger harsh responses by Israel. That, in turn, would lead – Hamas allegedly hoped – to the eruption of a widespread uprising by West Bank Palestinians: a third Intifada.
It seems that Israeli intelligence received some of its information on this plot from Jordan’s security agencies, which is believed to have spies inside various Palestinian factions – and Jordan is reputed to engage in harsh interrogations to extract information about alleged plots.
As part of the Israeli investigation in the West Bank, according to Shin Bet officials, dozens of weapons and hidden storage facilities were found. Guns, valued at around half a million dollars, are believed to have been smuggled in from Jordan.
Shin Bet believes it broke up this plot before attacks on Israelis – or on the P.A. – could be carried out. But one Shin Bet official said the information obtained proves that Hamas – and certainly its leadership outside the Palestinian territories – are deadly serious in their objective to take over the entire Palestinian movement.