Thursday, November 27, 2014

27-Nov-14: Hamas terrorist ring is busted; Israel says the handlers operate from Turkey; Qatar is involved

Haniyeh of Hamas is greeted by Erdogan of Turkey in the Turkish
parliament, during a solidarity visit, January 2012
[Image Source: Paltimes]
A week ago, an unconfirmed Times of Israel report by Avi Issacharoff revealed details of a Hamas terror group that had recently been exposed, penetrated and busted by Israel's security services. It had been active inside the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority and dozens of its members were said to be under arrest.

Issacharoff claimed the organization was based in, and run from, Turkey, under the control of already-well-known senior Hamas terrorists, and had undertaken several terror attacks, all of which (according to his report) had been thwarted or failed.

Funding and overall direction were in the hands of Saleh Muhammad Suleiman al-Arouri, a convicted terrorist who had been arrested and imprisoned several times over and deported by Israel from the West Bank to Turkey in 2010. From his new Turkish base, he assembled a "management team" that included a number of terrorists freed by Israel in the catastrophic Shalit Deal of 2011.

As far back as July 2013, Ehud Yaari, one of Israel's best-known and -respected strategic affairs commentators, writing in New Republic, had said Al-Arouri had "taken sole control of the movement's activities in the West Bank". Did the Turks know this? Does it matter to them?

Al-Arouri, according to an August 2014 profile in the Washington Post, was one of the main figures responsible for the revival of Hamas terrorist actions in the West Bank and an advocate of the usefulness of kidnapping innocent Israelis.

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published a report three months ago asserting that al-Arouri had
told the participants of the fourth conference of the World Union of Islamic Sages (held in Turkey) that Hamas' military-terrorist wing was behind the abduction and murder of the three Jewish youths in Gush Etzion (June 12, 2014). He read his speech, saying that he was speaking on behalf of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (calling him the "head of this resistance"). He was apparently recorded without his knowledge and his speech was uploaded to YouTube and received much feedback. In his speech he claimed that "the struggle of the masses has grown to include all the occupied lands. It reached a height in the heroic action carried out by the [Izz al-Din] al-Qassam Brigades, which captured three settlers in Hebron." He claimed the abduction and murder were committed to support the hunger strike of the Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. According to the speech, the abduction and murder a part of Hamas' campaign to ignite a new intifada throughout all of Palestine (including Israeli Arabs...) [Source: Meir Amit IITC, August 24, 2014]
Turkey's increasingly open involvement with the jihadists of Hamas was the focus of a recent Foreign Policy article ["Thorn in the Side | Why is Turkey sheltering a dangerous Hamas operative?", Jonathan Schanzer, September 17, 2013]:
In his attempts to strengthen Hamas, Erdogan has... allowed his country's ties with Israel to suffer. The Turkish leader famously stormed offstage during a contentious 2009 panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres, in protest of Israel's isolation of Gaza. Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem plummeted further the following year, after Turkey's largest NGO dispatched a flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, leading to clashes between Israeli commandos and activists that left nine Turks dead... More recently, however, the two countries have take steps to bury the hatchet. This year, U.S. President Barack Obama facilitated a phone call between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which began a process that resulted in Israel issuing an apology for the incident and agreeing to pay reparations to the victims' families... However, Erdogan's support for Hamas could become a serious stumbling block for a further warming of ties with Israel. The Turkish premier's ties with Hamas remain as strong as ever - in fact, they appear to have deepened... If Arouri is behind the funding, recruiting, or planning of any of these Hamas operations in the West Bank, it will have grave consequences for Turkey. To the letter of the law, Turkey could meet criteria as a state sponsor of terrorism. [Schanzer, Foreign Policy]
Today, the facts of last week's Times of Israel exclusive were validated by fresh new revelations ["Hamas gang plotted ‘major attack’ at Jerusalem soccer stadium", Times of Israel, November 27, 2014]. It turns out that, indeed, more than 30 Hamas terrorists were arrested by Israeli security during September 2014, according to the Israel Security Agency - better known as the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service.
The majority were recruited while studying in Jordan and trained in either Syria or the Gaza Strip, which they entered via tunnels from Sinai. The Shin Bet said the ring was preparing to kidnap Israelis in Israel and abroad, enter Israeli villages, detonate car bombs, perpetrate roadside attacks, and execute a major terror attack in [Jerusalem's] Teddy Stadium... The network, Palestinian officials said, was funded and directed by Hamas officials in Turkey who have set up a de facto command center in the Muslim country...
Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium [Image Source]
A key target of the Turkish-directed Hamas gang
Israel has complained to NATO, according to an Israeli newspaper reputedly close to Netanyahu
and demanded it take action against Turkey, after learning it has allowed Hamas to set up operational headquarters in Istanbul. Senior political sources in Jerusalem said Hamas has chosen to relocate its diplomatic and military headquarters from Damascus to Istanbul, over the civil war raging in Syria. Official communiqu├ęs sent from Jerusalem to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's office in Brussels, via several channels, said it was inconceivable that a member of the intergovernmental military alliance would maintain ties with a terrorist organization... A senior source said Tuesday that there was little doubt that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a staunch supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, was aware of Hamas operations in Istanbul, and that he had most likely authorized the move. [Israel Hayom, yesterday]
In today's announcement, the Shin Bet says the men arrested had a long shopping list of terror targets including shooting Israeli drivers in Judea and Samaria; infiltrating Israeli communities in order to carry out close-range killings; kidnappings of Israelis in Judea/Samaria as well as outside Israel's borders; car bombings; further recruiting in Jordan of new would-be killers; and (which has attracted the bulk of the media attention, understandably) terror attacks on Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium and on the Jerusalem Light Rail. Had they been executed, and in the absence of intelligence on the Turkish-controlled cell, some or all of these attacks might have been ascribed to "lone wolf" jihadists. We now know a little better.

Turkey is not the only foreign state being accused of deep involvement with the terrorism of this gang.
The officials accused Turkey as well as Qatar - the current home of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal - of enabling Hamas to operate freely within their territories to carry out attacks against Israel and undermine the Palestinian Authority... It appeared that the ring announced by the Shin Bet [today] began to unravel with a failed roadside attack on August 31, 2014... The Shin Bet said that intelligence work done in the wake of that failed attack enabled the organization to arrest the perpetrators and some 30 other suspects, revealing “a wealth of information about the infrastructure.” [Times of Israel today]
That 'wealth of information' might make for some revealing analysis in the coming days.

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