Posted tagged ‘Iran and Hamas’

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies

September 15, 2017

IDF’s Gaza Wall May Change Hamas Terror Strategies, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, September 15, 2017

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

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Time may be running out for one of Hamas’s main weapons against Israel: Its cross-border terror tunnels.

By 2019, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessments, Israel will complete an underground wall that stretches along the 60-kilometer (37 mile) border with Gaza. The wall is the product of several years of research and development, and is designed to eliminate the tunnel threat to Israeli communities located near Gaza.

During the past three years, since the end of its last conflict with Israel, Hamas has invested big resources into its tunnel maze. One of its top goals is to rehabilitate an ability to inject murder squads into Israeli territory through the tunnels.

Once inside Israel, they could target IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians for murder or kidnapping, whenever the next conflict breaks out.

But Israel has invested far more than Hamas to try stopping that threat. It is paying 150 million shekels ($42.5 million) for each kilometer of the new wall.

Work began on the subterranean project in areas where Israeli communities were very close to the border. Then, gradually, other areas began receiving protection.

During a conference call held with reporters in August, the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir, said the wall will prevent “the digging of tunnels into our territory,” adding that work is “advancing according to plan. In the coming months, this project is going to significantly accelerate. We will see an expansion in the scope of the works. Within two years, we will be able to complete work.”

Many details about the wall remain classified. But IDF sources have previously indicated that the wall will come with electronic sensors. The sensors will issue alerts to military control centers, sounding the alarm about suspicious tunnel digging activity.

The control rooms, would, in turn, be able to order action if necessary.

Similar military control rooms are popping up along the Gaza border to handle intelligence coming in from Israel’s above-ground border fence. Sensors installed on the barrier, together with units from the IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Corps, are joined by drones, spy balloons, and radars, all feed the control centers with a flow of data, and alert them to suspicious activity.

The big question now is whether Hamas will sit back and watch Israel take away its offensive tunnel option, or whether it will feel cornered and strike out, risking a new conflict.

“We very much hope we will not be challenged as this [work] continues,” said Zamir. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but continue to prepare. We are on high alert.”

Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Al-Qassam Brigades, issued a statement earlier this month saying that the underground wall “will not limit the ability of the resistance,” and vowing to “find the solutions needed to overcome it.”

But Hamas is unlikely to launch attacks in response to Israel’s wall, Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

“They cannot initiate a military maneuver now. The timing is bad for them,” he said, citing Hamas’s financial woes, made worse by the fact that Qatar, under U.S. pressure, is cutting off the cash flow to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas wants to engage Egypt to improve its isolation and find a way out of its financial crisis. It just opened an office in Cairo. It cannot depend on friends like Turkey, which has a limited ability to provide assistance, Karmon said. “Beyond that, Hamas is under pressure from the Palestinian Authority. A new military clash with Israel will harm them,” he said.

During his remarks, Zamir said that the “Gaza arena is stable,” adding, “We have identified that Hamas remains deterred, and that it is restraining many attacks [by smaller Palestinian armed factions].”

At the same time, he said, Hamas is encouraging the flames of terrorism to spread in the West Bank, and is orchestrating terror cells remotely, as it prepares itself for future war in Gaza.

That’s an assessment that was echoed by Karmon, who said Hamas is most likely to respond to Israel’s improved position against the tunnels in Gaza by upping attempts to generate terrorism from the West Bank.

Hamas, together with Iran, could try to smuggle rockets into the West Bank, Karmon said, citing a directive by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to assist West Bank terrorist cells.

“The Iranians understood that Hamas is deterred in Gaza, and limited in what it can do,” Karmon said.

As a result, Hamas likely will remain focused on igniting the West Bank, and using it as a launchpad for terrorist attacks on Israel, he said.

Karmon cited information unveiled by the chief of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, in recent days, which told the government that about 200 terror attacks had been thwarted in 2017.

“Most of the big attacks [that were stopped by the Shin Bet] were organized by Hamas, not Fatah,” Karmon said. “Hamas’s whole campaign is focused on the West Bank, and includes using clans that support Hamas, and distributing propaganda for violent incitement. They are neutralized in Gaza, and are trying to heat up the West Bank.”

Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Hamas continues neglecting the basic needs of the 2 million Palestinians it rules over, as it remains focused on its quiet military build-up, according to the chief of the IDF’s Southern Command.

“Many resources in Gaza are going to the Hamas military wing. They could be used instead to improve the humanitarian situation,” Zamir said. “We continue to prepare. Reality is explosive. It could deteriorate into a conflict at any time.”

In addition to offensive tunnels, Hamas has built a maze of tunnels that crisscross Gaza City. Zamir described them as “an underground metro network,” designed to move Hamas armed members, weapons, and logistics out of Israel’s sight.

Yet Israel’s Southern Command is watching these activities closely, and preparing a range of solutions designed to enable Israel to turn Hamas’s underground city into a large death trap if a new conflict begins.

The IDF’s Southern Command recently sent out images of civilian facilities in Gaza that Hamas uses as a cover for its military-terrorist activities.

One image is of a six-story residential building, which Hamas used to build an underground facility nearby, according to the military. The second photo is a of a home containing a family with five children, which is linked to a tunnel that leads to a mosque, enabling Hamas terrorists to move underground and use human shields as they do.

This type of activity “endangers the civilians of Gaza,” Zamir cautioned. “We hope that this quiet will continue, but we are continuing to prepare, and are on high alert.”

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

Articles In Gulf Press: The Escalation In Gaza – A Result Of Qatar, Iran, Turkey Toying With Lives Of Innocent Palestinians

June 28, 2017

Articles In Gulf Press: The Escalation In Gaza – A Result Of Qatar, Iran, Turkey Toying With Lives Of Innocent Palestinians, MEMRI, June 28, 2017

Following the June 27, 2017 Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in response to the firing of a rocket from Gaza into Israel, articles in the Gulf press attacked Hamas and the countries that support it: Qatar, Iran and Turkey. The articles – published against the backdrop of the inter-Gulf tension and the Boycott imposed on Qatar, chiefly by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – blamed Hamas of the firing of the rocket into Israel, and claimed that it was escalating the situation in Gaza on purpose in order to serve the interests of its three patron countries. These countries, said the articles, place innocent Palestinians in danger in order to divert global attention away from the Gulf crisis. 

The following are excerpts from two articles on this topic:   

‘Al-Ittihad’ Editorial: Qatar, Iran, Turkey Use Gaza As Bargaining Chip, Toying With The Lives Of Its Innocent People

Muhammad Al-Hamadi, editor of the UAE daily Al-Ittihad, wrote: “On June 27, without any warning, the Arabs woke up to discover that Gaza had been bombarded. Why? What has happened that we don’t know about? What did the Gazan Palestinians do to find themselves under Israeli fire? Has a third intifada broken out? Has the battle for the liberation of Jerusalem begun?

“In practice, none [of the above] happened. All [that happened was] that those who trade in the Palestinian problem, who are themselves in trouble, remembered an old bargaining chip that they have long been using successfully, [and decided] to use it in the dire circumstances that have befallen their friend Qatar, which serves as their open bank [account]. They thought that [using this bargaining chip] would be a good way to divert the Arabs’ attention away from Qatar and focus it [instead] on Gaza and its residents who are being bombarded with missiles by the Israeli enemy.

“This conduct of Qatar and its allies, in Palestine and elsewhere, is despicable. How disgraceful it is that some are willing to toy with the lives of innocents and with the future of small children in Gaza in order to achieve political aims. For a long time now, some [elements] – chiefly Iran, Qatar and Turkey – have been toying with the Palestinian cause and they were successful, but the cost was high: hundreds and even thousands of innocent Palestinians who have been martyred or wounded and crippled. What was the [Palestinian’s] reward? The reward was a donation drive among Arab and Muslim countries that raised millions. [But only] a handful of riyals and dinars was handed out to the disaster-stricken Palestinians. It is always the case that the [Gazan] people get crumbs, while the rest goes to the loyal partner, Hamas.

“We have said from the beginning of the boycott of Qatar that the game is over, but Qatar apparently isn’t listening. Continuing this transparently [wicked] behavior will no longer avail [it], because the peoples are no longer fooled. If in the past they trusted the propaganda of the ideologically recruited Al-Jazeera channel, which serves certain goals, today the peoples no longer watch Al-Jazeera and are no longer influenced by it and by other Arab or foreign channels. Information has become very accessible, and [cyber]space has opened up in [this] era of new media. Nobody has a monopoly on the facts, and it is no longer possible to deceive the peoples. That is what the Palestinian people discovered on July 27. It discovered that there are those who want to exploit it and drag it into a new confrontation with the Israeli enemy, while those who plan [the confrontation] stay in five-star hotels in Doha and Istanbul and in other capitals that shelter the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and of terror.

“Our friends in Gaza informed us that the [Gaza] Strip was not bombarded and that only two Israeli missiles were fired in response to the rocket fired from Gaza into Israel. Everyone knows that Qatar is the one that is ‘bombarded’ and boycotted. Who gains from the firing of the rocket and from the situation in which Gaza is bombarded?”[i]

Saudi Columnist: Qatar, Iran Sponsor Hamas, Which Uses Gazans As Human Shields

Hani Al-Zahiri wrote in the Saudi ‘Okaz daily: “It has been centuries since our region has seen a political gamble as terrible as the Iranian and Qatari regimes’ [current] gamble with the lives and the cause of the Palestinians. These two [regimes] adopted the Muslim Brotherhood’s Hamas organization, and supported it by every means when it staged an uprising against the legal Palestinian leadership [the PA] and took over Gaza, and then turned the innocent residents [of Gaza] into a human shield for the Hamas leadership.

“The state of the Gaza Strip in the face of the Israeli bombardments, which usually come in direct response to Hamas actions, reminds us of  [a situation in which] a man kidnaps a girl and then provokes [the soldiers in] a military base to open fire on him and uses the girl as a human shield. The kidnapper in this case is Hamas and the girl is Gaza and its helpless people. The portly Hamas leaders meet in Doha and Tehran, laugh around tables laden with delicacies and order their young [fighters] to open the gates of Hell to the Palestinians by [shooting] firecrackers – which they call ‘rockets’ – at Israeli [army] posts, so that Gaza will be bombarded and women, children and the elderly will die. Then Hamas [officials] will come out, condemn this on satellite channels, and demand support and funds to rescue the Palestinian people, before going back to their feast, safe and sound. In the meantime the entire world will watch the suffering of an unarmed people that has no means to defend itself.

“Everything that has happened to the Palestinians since Hamas took over them indicates that their second enemy, after Israel, is Qatar and Iran, which are using a tinderbox named Hamas to burn them in order to achieve purely political aims… The question now is why, on the day before yesterday [June 26], Qatar and its allies prompted Hamas to fire on Israeli positions, thus inviting Israel to respond by bombarding Gaza. The answer is clearly that this was a despicable attempt and a new political gamble by the Qatari regime, aimed at easing the noose of the Gulf boycott [of Qatar, a boycott] which prompted calls to sue [this regime] in the international [court] for the black [crime] of supporting terror. Today [Qatar] desperately needs to divert the world’s attention in another direction, even at the expense of the life and blood of a defenseless people… The Qataris and Iranians will exploit the event to utter phrases of pretended sympathy for the Palestinians, but only the people in Gaza know that they are the victims of this pair of plotters [Qatar and Iran].”[ii]

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[i] Al-Ittihad (UAE), June 28, 2017.

[ii] ‘Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 28, 2017.

Hamas Wants Quiet As It Prepares For Next Assault on Israel

April 27, 2017

Hamas Wants Quiet As It Prepares For Next Assault on Israel, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Yaakov Lappin, April 27, 2017

In the long run, Sinwar and his regime plan to continue to prepare for the ‘grand’ destiny they have chosen for Gaza. So long as Hamas rules Gaza, it will be the base of unending jihad against Israel, buffered by tactical ceasefires, until conditions are ripe for a new assault.

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Strategically, Hamas remains as committed as ever to its objective of destroying Israel and toppling the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in the process. Tactically, however, Hamas exhibits pragmatism and won’t rush into wars with Israel when conditions are ill suited.

Hamas looks at the long run, and remains convinced that it can eradicate Israel, even if it takes decades or centuries. Yet it would prefer to bide its time, and build up its force until the next clash while working to decrease its acute regional isolation. For this to happen, Hamas needs to avoid plunging Gaza into a new war any time soon. Yet it remains far from clear that it will be able to do this.

Should a war erupt in the near future, it likely will be triggered by unplanned dynamics of escalation.

Gaza’s woeful living standards and infrastructure are among those factors. Crises such as the ongoing electricity supply problem plaguing the Strip could facilitate an early conflict, as Hamas may try to distract the population’s frustrations from its failings, and divert them to Israel.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is threatening to make matters worse by cutting off cash for Gaza’s power plant. It’s part of the ongoing feud between the Fatah-run PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. Gazans now receive electricity only four to six hours a day due to this feud. In January, Gazans took the unprecedented step of protesting power cuts, making Hamas extremely nervous.

In addition to tensions over the electricity crisis, a Hamas-run terror cell could spark conflict if it carries out a mass casualty attack that spawns Israeli retaliation.

The sheer scope of such plots that Israel thwarts every year is enormous.

Last year, 184 shooting attacks, 16 suicide bombings, and 16 kidnapping plots were foiled, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman testified last month before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Hamas had “significantly increased” efforts to pull off attacks in the West Bank and in Israel, he said, adding that Israeli security forces arrested more than 1,000 Hamas members in the West Bank last year and broke up 114 cells.

These are risks Hamas is prepared to take, since the day that it ceases all attempts to carry out jihadist terrorism against Israel is the day that it stops being Hamas.

Yet Hamas is also a government now, and it must consider the Gazans it rules. Hamas is keenly aware of Palestinian sentiment. Its leaders grew up in Gaza’s refugee camps and always have their finger on the pulse of Gazan society.

Hamas leaders seem to understand that the public opposes a new damaging war with Israel. They recognize that the Palestinian public cannot stomach a war with Israel every two years. The reconstruction program in Gaza following the 2014 conflict is far from complete. There are still Gazans whose homes haven’t been repaired from the damage inflicted in 2014.

The general population, despite being exposed to Hamas’s daily propaganda diet of jihadist rhetoric, would likely be reluctant to be again be used as human shields by the military wing, barely three years since the end of the last clash.

The price of Hamas’s policy of embedding its rocket launchers and fighters in Gaza’s civilian areas also is not alluring to many Gazans.

On the flip side, one of Hamas’s worst fears is of being perceived as weak. After one of its senior operatives was mysteriously killed recently, it executed three people it accused of collaborating with Israel.

Hamas also responded to Mazen Fuqaha’s murder by sending threatening messages to Israel promising vengeance. Hamas videos suggest it will target senior Israeli security officials for assassination.

Fuqaha was a key figure in the Izzadin Al-Qassam Brigades, and reportedly in charge of setting up multiple terrorist cells in the West Bank. His bullet-ridden body was found last month outside of his Gazan apartment building.

The Israeli defense establishment takes these Hamas threats seriously. Despite the noise, however, Hamas has not rushed to respond just yet – underlining the fact that Hamas is aware of the restraints factors that it is under.

Since the end of the 2014 war with Israel, the Islamist regime has shied away from escalating the security situation with Israel.

Hamas’s leadership sees unfavorable regional conditions. They lack any powerful regional backer following the 2013 downfall of Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood president in neighboring Egypt, in whom Hamas staked so many of its hopes.

In the past, Hamas enjoyed many partnerships, enjoying arms support and funding from the Shi’ite axis (Iran and Hizballah) – and forming relationships with Sunni powers.

But the Middle Eastern regional upheaval, which pits Sunnis against Shiites, and Islamists against non-Islamists, forced Hamas to make choices. It could no longer be on the same side of both Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, who are locked in a transnational proxy war. In the same vein, Hamas cannot be on the same side as both the Assad regime and the Sunni rebels fighting to remove him.

Worst of all from Hamas’s perspective, Morsi’s departure means it cannot rely on its primordial impulse to attach itself to a Sunni Muslim Brotherhood-led backer.

Five years ago, there were initial signs of a regional wave of Muslim Brotherhood successes. The Brothers rose to power in Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, and had Qatari backing. Morsi’s 2013 fall changed Hamas’s fortunes for the worse. The rise of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, a leader who identifies Hamas as a Gazan branch of his domestic arch-enemy, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, guaranteed Hamas’s isolation.

Relations with Cairo remain rocky despite recent Hamas attempts to improve ties. Egypt may open its Rafah border crossing a few days a week, but this does not change its core view of Hamas as a true enemy, to be held at bay, weakened, and deterred.

Hamas has also fallen out with Saudi Arabia. And Hamas and Iran do not get along very well either, despite Iran continuing to be the chief sponsor of the military wing, paying it $50-$60 million a year, according to various estimates.

This leaves Hamas with just two stalwart friends: Qatar and Turkey, neither of which can back them substantially. Turkey is not an Arab state, meaning that its role in the Arab world is limited, and its desire to lead the Arab world will always be met with suspicion. A failure by Turkey to infiltrate the region means that it can only do so much to assist Gaza. Qatar, though wealthy, is politically weak, and geographically distant.

New Hamas leader Yihyeh Sinwar, despite his fundamentalist inclinations, must consider these constraints and see that his Islamist-run enclave has little real backing.

To compound its problems, Hamas also has serious financial issues. It has three main sources of income: Donations from states, donations from private individuals, and Hamas’s network of investments.

Hamas gets far less money than it used to from its donors, according to Israeli assessments. Only Qatar and Turkey donate on a regular basis, while Iran continues to finance the military wing, but not the entire movement.

Hamas is a large organization, with operations in the West Bank, Qatar, and Turkey in addition to Gaza. In the Strip, it needs to pay salaries, and prepare for its next clash with Israel. Hamas also seeks to export terrorism to the West Bank and build up political support among West Bank Palestinians. All of this costs money. It is has offices and headquarters in multiple states overseas that require annual budgets.

Private Gulf State donors are drying up. Wealthy Saudis are more interested in supporting Syrian rebels. Hamas’s cause has moved to the back of the line.

Its investments, meant to be saved for a rainy day, now must be tapped.

So what can Hamas do? First and foremost, it continues its domestic military build-up, mass producing rockets, mortar shells, variants of shoulder-fired missiles, drones, and digging tunnels – all at the expense of the welfare of the 2 million Palestinians it rules.

That’s because Hamas drew many operational lessons from its last conflict with Israel, and is keen on rebuilding its terrorist-guerrilla army without interruptions.

One lesson was to focus on a perceived Israeli vulnerability through short-range strikes. To that end, it is building new rockets that carry 200 kilogram warheads – significantly larger than past rockets made in Gaza.

These projectiles are not accurate, but would cause enormous damage if they slammed into a southern Israeli town or village.

Hamas weapons factories produce simple RPGs as well.

Second, Hamas is trying to becoming more ‘acceptable’ to the region and to the world. It is about to unveil a new charter which will be an attempt to obfuscate its jihadist ideological leanings and ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, and present itself as being merely a national “resistance” organization.

In the long run, Sinwar and his regime plan to continue to prepare for the ‘grand’ destiny they have chosen for Gaza. So long as Hamas rules Gaza, it will be the base of unending jihad against Israel, buffered by tactical ceasefires, until conditions are ripe for a new assault.

Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.

Arrests Breaks Up PIJ Recruitment Scheme

November 30, 2016

Arrests Breaks Up PIJ Recruitment Scheme, Investigative Project on Terrorism. Yaakov Lappin, November 30, 2016

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Israeli security forces led by the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency have uncovered a recruitment drive by Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives located in Pakistan, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned.

The operatives hail from Gaza and tried to recruit fellow students in Pakistan to create a West Bank cell, according to Israeli security sources.

The investigation illustrates the ease with which terror organizations, particularly Islamic Jihad and Hamas, recruit Palestinian students overseas, often taking advantage of extensive contact networks, the sources said.

The case is unusual for exposing Palestinian Islamic Jihad activity so far from the Palestinian territories and from Israel.

According to the Shin Bet’s investigation, 22-year-old Baha’a Abu Marhiah, a resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, is a Palestinian student who was recruited by two Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. Marhiah was studying for a law degree at a university in Lahore, Pakistan.

Two Islamic Jihad operatives from Northern Gaza’s Shati Refugee Camp were studying for doctorates at the same university.

Israeli security forces named them as Sharif Halabi, 34, a religious scholar and teacher, and Ramzi Shakshak, 32, who lectures at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza.

Halabi, who told students in Pakistan about “martyrs” in Gaza and incited them against Israel, gained Abu Marhiah’s trust and convinced him to join Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the investigation found.

Halabi allegedly told Abu Marhiah to keep in touch after returning to Hebron, and to await further instructions on how to conduct attacks, according to the Shin Bet. Today, Halabi and Shakshak are back in Gaza.

But Marhiah was arrested Sept. 22 in a joint Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces, and police operation following his return.

In recent days, an IDF military court charged Abu Marhiah with carrying out a service for a banned organization, and holding contact with an enemy entity.

After Hamas, Islamic Jihad is the second largest terrorist organization in Gaza, with approximately 5,000 armed combatants split up into regional brigades and a domestically produced rocket arsenal which incorporates Iranian know-how.

Any expansion of Islamic Jihad from Gaza into the West Bank would also represent an Iranian push into the area.

Prior to 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield, Islamic Jihad maintained a high profile in the West Bank and launched a series of suicide bombing and shooting attacks against Israelis. Jenin and Hebron were considered strong areas for the organization. The terrorist group is now working strenuously to reinvigorate itself in the area.

Iran remains the principal financial backer of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Unlike Hamas, it has remained utterly loyal to Tehran and enjoyed sustained, continuous support from it.

While Hamas has distanced itself from Iran’s Shi’ite sectarian intervention in the region’s raging wars, particularly in Syria, Islamic Jihad has not.

In recent months, Iran has expanded efforts to create a zone of influence in the West Bank, according to Israeli defense assessments.

This included attempts by its proxies, Islamic Jihad and Hizballah, to set up terror cells there.

Israel identified and stopped efforts by Hizballah’s Unit 133, which seeks to set up terror cells among Palestinians and activate them, earlier this year.

Meanwhile Shin Bet periodically checks efforts by Islamic Jihad in Gaza to recruit West Bank attackers. Despite the successes, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) central command assessed last year that Islamic Jihad was gaining strength in the West Bank.

The small, yet highly focused organization will continue acting as the principal flag bearer for Iran in the Palestinian arena.

Iran, Hamas and the Dance of Death

November 23, 2016

Iran, Hamas and the Dance of Death, Gatestone InstituteKhaled Abu Toameh, November 23, 2016

It now appears that the Obama Administration’s failed policies in the Middle East have increased the Iranians’ appetite, such that they are convinced that they can expand their influence to the Palestinians as well.

Iran has one goal only: to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and undermine moderate and progressive Arabs and Muslims.

“Relations between Iran and Hamas are currently undergoing revitalization, and are moving in the right direction,” announced Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official. He went on to explain that “moving in the right direction” means that Iran would “continue to support the resistance” against Israel.

Hamas and Iran have no meaningful ideological or strategic differences. Both share a common desire to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. Iran expects results: Hamas is to use the financial and military support to resume attacks on Israel and “liberate all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

As far as Iran is concerned, there is nothing better than having two proxy terror organizations on Israel’s borders — Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south.

The biggest losers, once again, will be President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Israel’s presence in the West Bank has thus far thwarted Iran’s repeated attempts to establish bases of power there.

The Iranians and Hamas are exploiting the final days of the Obama Administration to restore their relations and pave the way for Tehran to step up its meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians in particular and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general.

Emboldened by the nuclear deal framework with the world powers, Iran has already taken the liberty of interfering in the internal affairs of other Arabs, particularly the Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Yemenites and some Gulf countries.

It now appears that the Obama Administration’s failed policies in the Middle East have increased the Iranians’ appetite, such that they are convinced that they can expand their influence to the Palestinians as well.

Thanks to the civil war in Syria, relations between Hamas and Iran have been strained over the past few years. Hamas’s refusal to support the regime of Bashar Assad — Iran’s chief ally in the region — has led the Iranians to suspend financial and military aid to the Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip. However, recent signs indicate that Iran and Hamas are en route to a kind of Danse Macabre — a move that will undoubtedly allow Tehran to become a major player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

1162-2Iran used to funnel money to Hamas because the terrorist group shares Iran’s desire to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. Relations between Iran and Hamas foundered a few years back, when Hamas leaders refused to support the Iranian-backed Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad. Pictured above: Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (left) confers with Iranian “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei, in 2010. (Image source: Office of the Supreme Leader)

This, of course, bodes badly for any future peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Iran has one goal only: to eliminate the “Zionist entity” and undermine moderate and progressive Arabs and Muslims.

The new US administration would do well to take very seriously Iran’s comeback to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because of its implications not only concerning prospects for peace, but also because it means that this will lead to an upsurge in violence and terror attacks against Israel.

Proof of Iran’s renewed effort to infiltrate the Palestinian arena was provided this week by statements made by a senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, who is in charge of the Islamist movement’s “external affairs.” Asked about Hamas’s relations with Iran, Hamdan was quoted as saying that he had good reason to be optimistic.

“Relations between Iran and Hamas are currently undergoing revitalization, and are moving in the right direction,” Hamdan announced. He went on to explain that “moving in the right direction” means that Iran would “continue to support the resistance” against Israel:

“Relations between Iran and Hamas extend over a period of 25 years. Undoubtedly, any flaw in this relationship has a negative impact. But this relationship is capable of renewing itself. This is a relationship that is based on supporting the resistance and the Palestinian cause.”

In reality, Hamas and Iran have no meaningful ideological or strategic differences. Both share a common desire to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic empire. The two entities are also committed to an “armed struggle” against Israel, and are vehemently opposed to any compromise with it.

The crisis between the two sides over the civil war in Syria is no more than a minor, tactical dispute. When it comes to the real agenda, such as destroying Israel and launching terror attacks, Iran and Hamas continue to be in total alignment.

Another sign of the apparent rapprochement between Iran and Hamas came in the form of reports that the Islamist movement has appointed a new leader in the Gaza Strip with close ties to Tehran. According to the reports, Emad El Alami, who previously served as Hamas’s first emissary to Tehran, has been entrusted with temporarily replacing Ismail Haniyeh as the ruler of the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh has in recent months relocated from the Gaza Strip to Qatar. At this stage, it remains unclear when and if Haniyeh will return to the Gaza Strip. Some Palestinians have surmised that Haniyeh may replace the Doha-based Khaled Mashaal as head of the Hamas “Political Bureau.” If this happens, then El Alami, who is regarded by many Palestinians as Iran’s agent, will become the permanent de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip.

El Alami’s rise to power will undoubtedly further facilitate Iran’s ambition to become a significant player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the gates of the Gaza Strip. This means that Hamas can expect more cash and weapons to enter Gaza in the coming weeks and months. Such an influx would significantly increase the likelihood of another war between Hamas and Israel. Iran’s millions will not be used by Hamas for building schools and hospitals, or providing desperately needed jobs for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Nor will the Iranian-supplied weapons be stored in Hamas warehouses and tunnels, or used in military parades.

Iran expects results: Hamas is to use the financial and military support to resume attacks on Israel and “liberate all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

When Hamas leaders talk about Iranian support for the Palestinian “resistance,” they mean suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism. They are saying with unmistakable clarity that they seek a resumption of Iranian support for the “resistance” — not for the tens of thousands of unemployed and impoverished Palestinians living under the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. The well-being of the Palestinians living under its rule is the last thing on Hamas’s mind.

The Iranians, for their part, appear to be extremely eager to resume their role as enablers and funders of any group that vows to eliminate Israel. As far as Iran is concerned, there is nothing better than having two proxy terror organizations on Israel’s borders — Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south.

Iran is already backing other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Sabireen. But these are tiny groups compared to Hamas, which has tens of thousands of gunmen and a strong military group, Ezaddin Al Kassam. And there is nothing to prevent Iran from extending its control to the Gaza Strip through Hamas, especially in the wake of the Obama Administration’s policy of appeasing not only the Iranians, but also the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the coming months, Hamas is scheduled to hold secret elections to elect a replacement for Khaled Mashaal. Mashaal’s departure from the scene is also set to facilitate Iran’s effort to infiltrate the Gaza Strip. The three candidates who are seen as potential successors to Mashaal — Ismail Haniyeh, Musa Abu Marzouk and Yehya Al Sinwar — have all pledged to improve their movement’s ties with Iran.

The biggest losers, once again, will be President Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.

PA officials continue to express deep concern over Iran’s meddling in Palestinian affairs, especially its financial and military support for terror groups in the Gaza Strip and even some parts of the West Bank. Yet Israel’s presence in the West Bank has thus far thwarted Iran’s repeated attempts to establish bases of power there. Abbas has no choice but to work with Israel if he wishes to prevent Iran and its supporters from overthrowing his regime, and perhaps dragging him to the center of Ramallah and hanging him as a traitor.

Abbas and his senior aides are nonetheless plenty worried about Iran’s increased efforts to infiltrate the Palestinian arena. At a lecture in Bahrain last week, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat sounded an alarm bell when he said:

“Iran has no right to interfere in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. Iran must respect the particularity of our country. We hope that Iran will focus on placing Palestine back on the map and not intervene through this or that group.”

But this warning is likely to fall on deaf ears in the waning Obama Administration, which obviously no longer shares the widespread concern among Arabs and Palestinians that Iran remains a major threat to stability and security in the region, including Israel. Perhaps the new US administration will see Iran and its machinations a bit more clearly. The alternative is allowing Iran and its proxy terror groups further to drench the region in blood.