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Is Hamas seeking to launch terror attacks in the West Bank?

Hebrew media report says that Palestinian point man is recruiting new members for Hamas

Members of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, attend a rally in Beit Lahiya, May 30, 2021. (Photo: Atia Mohammed/Flash90)

The Islamist terrorist organization Hamas is intensifying its efforts to carry out terrorist attacks in the West Bank with guidance from its Gaza Strip ruling base, the Israeli news agency Kan reported on Saturday without presenting any sources. 

According to Kan, Abdallah Arar, a Hamas associate who was released from Israeli jail during the Gilat Shalit prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel in 2011, has initiated contact with some 60 Palestinians in the West Bank over the past half year in an effort to recruit them for terrorist attack missions.

Arar reportedly contacted individuals through social media and had succeeded in recruiting several people to work for Hamas. According to the report, Arar is a skillful recruiter and organizer who often provides the enlisted individuals with detailed information on how to build bombs and how to find appropriate targets for terrorist attacks. 

In May, Hamas and the Jewish state fought an 11-day long war that ended with a shaky ceasefire that could collapse any moment if Hamas calculates that the benefits of a new military confrontation with Israel outweigh the costs. Unlike previous military conflicts with Israel, Gaza-based terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad succeeded this time to link its rocket fire on Israeli cities to religious-political unrest in Jerusalem, particularly to the Temple Mount and to contested real estates in the Jerusalem Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. 

In June, a poll recorded a dramatic increase in Palestinian support for Hamas following the recent Gaza conflict. Following the war, Hamas predictably declared “victory” despite suffering significant blows to its military infrastructure, caused by extensive Israeli military aerial bombardments. 

However, as the poll indicates, Hamas did in a sense emerge victorious after the conflict by increasing its popularity at the expense of its political rival Fatah, led by the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. While secular Fatah is often considered more “moderate” than Hamas by Israel and the West, considerable corruption and chronic mismanagement has made Fatah increasingly unpopular among the general Arab population in the West Bank. Consequently, Fatah’s perceived political weakness has emboldened Hamas to intensify its efforts to destabilize the Fatah-dominated West Bank while at the same time holding a firm grip of its own power in the Gaza Strip. Ironically, the more the West supports Abbas and his Fatah party, the more he is perceived as a Western puppet by the general Arab population, which strengthens Hamas politically. 

In July, an unnamed Israeli official told The Times of Israel news outlet that Hamas was emboldened by the conflict and the next military confrontation could be just around the corner. 

During the summer, terrorists in Gaza have launched incendiary balloons against Israel, causing significant fires and damages to Israeli farmlands adjacent to the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military responded by bombing terrorist infrastructure in Gaza. 

There is also growing tension between Hamas and Israel over Qatari funds. The Hamas leadership has threatened to escalate its attacks against Israel if the Jewish state does not allow the Qatari funds into Gaza. While Jerusalem supports humanitarian aid to Gaza, it is concerned that the funds would end up in the pockets of Hamas and would be used for rearming the terrorist group for future conflicts with the Jewish state. 

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