Israel Hayom Friday published an interview with Israeli General Tamir Yadai, the commander of the Israeli military’s West Bank forces, in which the general confirms that Hamas’s terror attempts have increased in tempo and that the group’s campaign is being “directed from Gaza via Turkey.”
“Between April and July, we really saw somewhat of an increase in attempts by Hamas to carry out attacks which were directed from Gaza via Turkey (mostly by those Hamas operatives released in the Gilad Schalit transaction). I’m happy to say that we’ve managed to foil all of these attempts, and once we obtain information about an effort to organize and attempt an attack, we immediately act. Still, I don’t delude myself into thinking that we always know everything. At any moment, we could be taken by surprise with an attack.”
Both dynamics had long been suspected, and to a great extent documented, but the blunt assessment may carry with it diplomatic consequences. Hamas’s domestic and regional credibility has been in freefall, and the terror group is widely suspected of trying to use a spectacular terror attack to rebuild its credibility. Israeli and Egyptian measures have largely prevented attacks from the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula, leaving the West Bank as the only viable location from which to launch terror operations. Hamas’s increasingly reckless gambits may fuel growing calls for the U.S. to impose potentially terminal pressure on the faction. Regarding the link to Turkey, Jonathan Schanzer – vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies – had already last September extensively outlined how Saleh al-Arouri, the founder of Hamas’s armed wing in the West Bank, was helping to direct operations while living in Turkey. Combined with recent revelations that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may have assisted a suspected Al Qaeda financier in moving through the country, it may become difficult for Western countries – including the United States – to treat Ankara as a reliable counter-terrorism partner.