A top Hamas leader has been arrested attempting to infiltrate Israel this month, the Shin Bet security service announced on Thursday. Arrested on May 14, the Shin Bet has only just declassified information relating to the arrest.
Mahmoud Mahmoud Issa Toameh, described by the Shin Bet as a “top ranking overseas operative of Hamas,” was caught trying to cross into Israel via the Allenby Bridge crossing. According to the Shin Bet, Toameh was born in 1951 in Tulkarem and lived for a short period of time in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s.
In 1983, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and became a founding member of Hamas when it split with the brotherhood in 1987. In 2008, Toameh was asked to join Hamas’s Shura Council, the body which overseas Hamas policy.
Under interrogation, Toameh revealed a treasure trove of secrets relating to Hamas operations within Israel and abroad as well as sources of funding.
The most notable bit of information Toameh told the Shin Bet was that the radical Islamic terror organization pays hundreds of young Israeli Arab citizens to violently harass Jews entering the Temple Mount compound.
Toameh explained how Hamas works with the Islamic Movement, an Israeli organization that seeks to promote Islam among Arab citizens of Israel. The two groups have united to prevent Jews from ascending the Temple Mount and always have a group of young Arabs on standby to harass and stone Jewish visitors.
According to the Shin Bet, the young men, who are students of Islamic theology at the Mount, are paid a monthly salary of NIS 4,000-5,000 ($1,100-$1,500) for their violent activities.
Before partnering with the Islamic Movement, Hamas has in the past worked with other organizations that try to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount compound. These groups, which also employ violent means, was made known to Israeli security authorities and shut down in 2013.
The new cooperation between Hamas and the Islamic Movement is a result of previously thwarted plans by the terrorist organization, which Toameh said Hamas has gone through great pains to hide from Israel.
Toameh also told the Shin Bet that Hamas maintains secret ties with radical Islamic cleric Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch. Salah, who is an Israeli citizen, has been arrested by Israel numerous times and was jailed between 2003 and 2005 for providing funding to Hamas.
Hamas maintains close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood movement out of Egypt, Toameh stated. He admitted that eight members of Hamas’s Shura Council were international members of the Brotherhood. Toameh revealed that Turkey and Qatar have developed into major international centers of operations for Hamas. Both governments have given approval to the terrorist organization to operate there.
Hamas, which has publicly made known that it is in severe need of funding, was thought to have been primarily funded by Iran, a global sponsor of terrorism. Toameh told the Shin Bet that up until a year ago, the terrorist organizations main sponsor was Iran. However, Iran has recently scaled back exponentially its funding of Hamas, throwing the group into economic distress.
The cut in funding by Iran prompted the group to open several civil groups and companies abroad. Many of these companies are real estate groups out of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Toameh, who is a member of the economic council of Hamas, detailed the complicated arrangements Hamas uses to transfer funds to its supporters in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. The use of international charities to funnel money has become a cornerstone for funding Hamas supporters and operations. Many of the international entities used by Hamas are based out fo Saudi Arabia, including the Al Quds International Institution and Union of Good, headed by Yousef al Qardawi.
Toameh admitted that it was his idea that Hamas should begin transferring funds via real estate deals. A few years ago, Toameh said that he had transferred approximately 750,000 Rial to Hamas under the guise of constructing a mosque in Tul Karem.
According to Toameh, the “Palestinian Business Forum,” which has presented itself as an organization promoting Palestinian economic development, was in fact founded by secret Hamas operatives. The Palestinian Business Forum is used to further the economic interests of Hamas.
Regarding the recent unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, Toameh said that the decision to unite with Fatah was more practical in nature. The agreement, according to Toameh, will not have any influence on the ideology of Hamas. Rather, the terrorist organization is seeking to increase its political power beyond Gaza and become a greater, more legitimate voice for Palestinians.