Israel’s Shin Bet security service announced on Monday that it had thwarted a Hamas coup aimed at overthrowing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, initiating wide sweeping violence and establishing a second front against Israel during Operation Protective Edge.
Over the course of May and June, the Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives, seized dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into PA territory, and confiscated more than $170,000 to be used for funding attacks.
After questioning the Hamas operatives, the Shin Bet said that they were planning a series of attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, as part of an attempt to cause massive chaos.
Numerous Hamas terror cells were established in dozens of Palestinian towns and villages, including the towns of Nablus, Jenin, Hebron, Ramallah, East Jerusalem and their surrounding environs.
According to the Shin Bet investigation, many of the operatives were students who were recruited to the terror cells based on their knowledge of chemistry and engineering.
The plot was masterminded by senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, who currently resides in Turkey and is supported by local officials. The report indicated that the infrastructure for the “severe” plans of attack were also based on a “forward front in Jordan.”
Using a secret network of couriers from Jordan and Turkey, the Shin Bet said that Hamas was able to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of funding to operatives of the terror cells in PA controlled territory with the intention of purchasing weapons, preparing safe houses, and establishing warehouses and labs for rocket manufacturing.
The leader of the operation, who the Shin Bet names as Riad Nasser, a resident of the village Dir Kadis, was recruited by the head of West Bank operations for Hamas abroad, al-Arouri.
Al-Arouri was one of the founding members of Hamas’s military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Other notable operatives include Majdi Mafarja, a residents of Beit Likiya, who hold a doctorate in computer science and was recruited by Hamas in Malaysia. Mafarja was arrested on May 22 and admitted to the Shin Bet that he acted as a courier, passing encoded messages, to members of the military wing of Hamas.
Muhammad Kafya, who was arrested on June 27, is a former leader of the Hamas student union at Abu Dis University. He turned over to the Shin Bet 19 rifles and five handguns that were to be used during attacks.
The Shin Bet characterized the network as “one of the most widespread we have known” and said that its existence and sophistication emphasizes the danger posed by Hamas operations abroad.
In light of the Shin Bet’s revelation, Abbas has ordered his security forces to investigate the matter. Abbas said that should the report prove true, the unity pact signed with Hamas would be severely impacted.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported Abbas saying that the massive coup planned by Hamas represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future.” Abbas warned that it would have “extremely dangerous” implications.