Against the backdrop of two al Qassam Brigades’ commanders killed during the 2014 Gaza war, Hamas’ senior political member, Mousa Abu Marzouk, admitted in an interview with al Mayadeen that a Palestinian ‘collaborator’ had recently fled to Israel.
On July 11, Israeli and Arab media reported that “a senior commander of Hamas’ military wing” fled to Israel after spying on the militant group for one of Israel’s intelligence agencies. The reports stated the militant who fled to Israel was a commander in al Qassam Brigades’ secretive frogman unit.
The frogman unit is best known for its raid at Zikim Beach in 2014. Five commandos from the unit infiltrated the beach from the Mediterranean Sea and clashed with IDF soldiers and a Merkava IV tank. The Merkava narrowly avoided serious damage when the fighters attempted to destroy it with an IED. The Palestinian fighters were eventually killed by a combination of IDF airstrikes and naval gunboats.
Initially, it would have been easy to dismiss the report about an al Qassam Brigades’ commander fleeing to Israel due to the information being sensitive and unlikely to leak from Gaza. However, the story gained traction when a Saudi news network, al Arabiya, confirmed the story and included additional details about the event.
“The fugitive leaked detailed information about the movements of Hamas leaders, the movement’s [Al Qassam Brigades] storage sites for its weapons, training sites for its cadres, and the location of political and military leaderships,” the al Arabiya report stated.
The report further elaborated saying Israel’s Mossad was involved and that Hamas arrested members of its military wing in connection to the commander’s spying and escape.
The al Arabiya report compelled Hamas to publish a statement on July 14 denouncing the Saudi news network and other media parties for publishing information the group considered false.
“The Islamic Resistance Movement ‘Hamas’ condemns the campaign of misinformation and distortion led by al Arabiya with other media parties, based on lies and slanders from the Zionist security services industry, aiming to harm the resistance of the Palestinian people and its confidence in the resistance and liberation project,” the Hamas publication stated.
The condemnation from Hamas increases tension between the movement and Saudi Arabia due to Hamas’ recent effort to persuade the Saudis to release its members currently serving prison sentences in Saudi Arabia.
The following day, senior political member Mousa Abu Marzouk appeared on Hezbollah-affiliated al Mayadeen and admitted that a ‘collaborator’ fled to Israel but denied it was a ‘leader’ in Hamas’ political or military wings.
Marzouk’s acknowledgement that a ‘collaborator’ fled to Israel added legitimacy to the reports in Arab and Israeli media. The public statements of condemnation and the al Mayadeen interview indicated Hamas was in damage control-mode after suffering an embarrassing setback against the group’s self-aggrandized security apparatus.