The Israeli Security Agency (ISA) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated on Friday that they arrested a terrorist cell in the West Bank operating under the guidance of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The cell was responsible for an attack on Israeli vehicles near the village of Einabus on September 9.
The joint statement added weapons and ammunition that were used in the assault were recovered. Furthermore, the cell admitted to being linked to the shootings.
Friday’s announcement follows an ISA statement made on Monday when it revealed a member of Hamas in Gaza tasked with recruiting militants abroad had directed seven Hamas operatives in the West Bank to carry out strikes. During the ISA’s investigation, it was discovered that the suspects were recruited by Hamas to launch shooting and bomb assaults. They were also supported financially to plan, train and carry out attacks, though the ISA did not reveal how the funds were transferred to the operatives. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Arrest of Militants Signals Hamas’ Involvement in Uptick of West Bank Violence]
Adding to Hamas’ attempts to foment unrest, Hezbollah has provided the means for militant organizations to launch assaults against Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops and Israeli civilians by smuggling arms into the West Bank. Initially, it wasn’t apparent if militant organizations were being supported from organizations abroad. Though, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Chief Hossein Salami recently stated the West Bank “could be armed” in the same manner as Gaza and the “process” was already underway. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Hezbollah smuggling weapons to the West Bank amid surge in militant activity]
Much of the unrest in the West Bank can be blamed on the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) inability to effectively control the growing threat of militant organizations. In the West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas’ approval rating is hovering around 30 percent, while about 70 percent wish to see him step down, according to a poll conducted by The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.
Iran, including its proxies, are aware of what is happening and are leveraging the PA’s position against it. Led by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and other armed groups have frequently clashed with IDF troops and attacked Israeli settlements. Adding to the unrest is the increasing amount of PA security forces’ members launching strikes on IDF troops. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Mounting Evidence of the PA’s Security Services Clashing With IDF Troops in the West Bank]
The growing evidence of Hamas’ efforts to direct attacks coupled with Hezbollah’s arming of militant organizations shows a concerted effort by Iran and its allies to create pockets of lawlessness in the West Bank. The actions undermine the PA’s rule and Israel’s efforts to curb the extensive violence sweeping the area.