Hamas was plotting to start a third intifada and overthrow the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank according to information just cleared for public release by the Shin Bet and the IDF–suggesting that concerns of a vast strengthening of Hamas in the weeks leading up to the kidnapping of three Israelis by Hamas members were far better founded than has been previously understood. The Jerusalem Post reports on the plot:
The end goal was to destabilize the Palestinian territories and use the instability to carry out a military coup, overthrowing the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The Hamas infrastructure relied on support from cells in neighboring Jordan, and on couriers who delivered terrorist finances, totaling at least two million shekels, which were used to purchase weapons and homes that were used as hideouts, according to the investigation.
The Shin Bet said that the investigation began in May during which time Israel has arrested over 90 suspects and is planning to indict 70 of them. The center of the investigation is Riad Nasser who was appointed by Turkey based Hamas operative, Saleh al-Arouri to lead the effort. The plot was spread across 46 Palestinian cities and villages and was centered in Ramallah.
“This infrastructure stretched from Jenin in the north to Hebron in the south. It is one the biggest we’ve seen in Judea and Samaria since Hamas’s formation in 1987,” a senior Shin Bet source, responsible for securing the Jerusalem district, told reporters on Monday. “They planned to carry out a coup and topple the Palestinian Authority,” he added.
Palestinian engineering and chemistry students were recruited for the operation. One of the most notable detainees holds a doctorate in computer science – he was recruited in Malaysia and trained in encryption and cyber-attacks. “The discovery of the infrastructure attests to the great danger posed by Hamas’ headquarters abroad given its strategic plan to collapse the Palestinian Authority,” said the Shin Bet.
At the end of May, the Shin Bet arrested Mahmoud Toameh a leading financier of Hamas’ operations. At the time of his arrest Toameh explained to authorities how Hamas “funds its activities, especially in the absence of funding from Iran.” Toameh admitted that Hamas used “real estate deals as a means of transferring money from abroad.” Discovery of this plot confirms fears that Hamas, in agreeing to a unity government with Fatah, was seeking to emulate the “Hezbollah model” in the West Bank as Ha’aretz reported in May, “A Hamas source has said the model being planned for the new Palestinian unity government is that of Hezbollah in Lebanon, in which the organization is a government party that has shed responsibility for routine matters but maintains an independent military.” [Photo: AFP news agency / YouTube ]