The Israeli Security Agency arrested 40 members of Hamas, the armed group ruling Gaza, on Wednesday. The Shin Bet, in coordination with the Israeli Army, accused Hamas members of operating a cell in the West Bank that was preparing to carry out attacks, YNet News reported.
Hamas’ operation in the West Bank was based in the northern city of Nablus and included plans to expand the cell to several local branches in neighboring towns, each with its own leadership hierarchy. The armed political party, which is on the U.S.'s designated terrorist list, was also hoping to expand its foothold by increasing its charity, education and recruitment in the area.
Hamas members divulged their expansion and operational plans upon their arrest and interrogation by Israeli security forces.
“Once again [we're seeing] the many means the Hamas leadership in the [Palestinian] territories and abroad use to build a wide, well-funded infrastructure capable of carrying out independent actions,” a Shin Bet statement said. “All of this is done in order to strengthen the organization’s hold on the area and to prepare the ground when the time comes to carry out terror attacks.”
The network’s leader in Nablus, 49-year-old Ranem Tufik Tzalah Salameh, was arrested, as was the official in charge of communication with Hamas officials outside of Palestine. Leaders in Nablus reportedly received funding and commands from Qatar-based spokesman Husam Badran.
On Tuesday, the Shin Bet accused Hamas and one of its armed faction, the al-Qassam Brigades, of ramping up their military capabilities in preparation to reignite fighting between the groups and Israel, Haaretz reported.
More than a year since Israel and Hamas went to war in the Gaza Strip, the group maintains a strong grip on residents there due to a lack of alternative governance, the Shin Bet’s General Security Chief, Yoram Cohen, told Israel’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.