Hamas’s admission this week that it was responsible for the construction of a tunnel built between the Gaza Strip and Israel – and that the tunnel was to be used in attacks – has sharpened concerns that the group is trying to launch a spectacular terror attack in order to halt what has become an undeniable slide in its domestic power and international stature.
The admission came within a few days of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh calling on Palestinians to wage another war against Israel. The terror group leader also criticized neighboring Egypt, though he struck a more conciliatory tone. It’s not impossible that the growing seriousness of Egyptian military threats was a consideration.
The call for violence against Israel, in contrast, was explicit. Israeli analysts sense desperation:
On Saturday, Haniyeh called on Arabs and Muslims to prepare for what he referred to as “the great al-Aksa intifada” against Israel. Apparently speaking out of a sense of desperation, Haniyeh resorted to the tried and true tactic of Arab leaders of redirecting frustration at Israel… Haniyeh’s threats should not be taken lightly. The discovery of a long tunnel running from the outskirts of Khan Yunis to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha – the third of its kind to be found this year – is a reminder of Hamas’s intentions. In the warped internal logic of Palestinian politics, a successful terror attack or a kidnapping of an Israeli soldier or civilian would succeed in strengthening Hamas’s popularity.
Haniyeh also celebrated recent terror attacks in the West Bank. Recent weeks have seen the murder of a retired Israeli colonel, Palestinian sniper fire that killed an Israeli soldier, and the attempted gunning down of a young girl in front of her family’s West Bank home.
A week before, a Palestinian was shot and killed trying to breach an IDF base near Ramallah with a tractor. Younis Obaidi attempted to run down guards as he broke through the fence of the base. A number of sources noted at the time that Obaidi’s brother had tried to kill Israeli civilians in Jerusalem with a tractor a few years ago.
Security forces were blunt:
Even though terror cells in the West Bank are under constant watch, both by Israel and by the Palestinians, Hamas is trying to ignite the area due its current regional weakness. Palestinian prisoners who were released under the Shalit deal and deported to the Gaza Strip are trying to direct terror in the West Bank by setting up cells. The purpose is terror against Israeli targets and kidnappings. The security establishment’s intelligence agencies are the reason why most attempts were thwarted while they were being planned. Security forces have thwarted over 30 kidnapping attempts.
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