Hamas had made it clear: They are willing to risk another war with Israe
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Hamas had made it clear: They are willing to risk another war with Israe

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The arrest operation on Sunday targeting a dangerous Hamas cell in the West Bank not only stopped a ticking time bomb but showed just how serious the terrorist group is.

Based in the Gaza Strip, Hamas constantly attempts to carry out attacks in the West Bank. But this was on a different level.

The raids, which took place in five different locations in the West Bank, were aimed at dismantling a large decentralized Hamas terror infrastructure that was planning to carry out imminent terror attacks both in Israel and the West Bank.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces during a protest in the village of Deir al-Hatab, near Nablus, September 22, 2021. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The attacks could have been reminiscent of the terror attacks carried out by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups during the Second Intifada, complete with bombings and the kidnappings of Israeli soldiers and civilians.

According to the military, Israel’s defense establishment had been following the cell closely and acted when the Shin Bet internal security agency received intelligence that they were about to follow through with their plans.

Over 20 operatives belonging to the cell were arrested by security forces as well as five weapons. Additional cell members and their weapons are still believed to be on the loose, with Israel on their trail.

Building the infrastructure’s capabilities must have taken several months, if not more than a year. It meant funneling funds to purchase the weapons and training needed to carry out the attacks.

The funds could have come from the group in Gaza or from Turkey where the group’s number two, Saleh Arouri, calls home.

Arouri the deputy head of Hamas, and one of the founders of its military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, is responsible for several bloody terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, including the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank that triggered Operation Protective Edge.

It would not be surprising if Arouri was also behind the cell that was targeted by Israel yesterday.

And it is not hard to imagine that had the cell been successful in carrying out their plans, that Israel could have found itself in another deadly conflict with the terror group, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Since Operation Guardian of the Walls and the cancellation of the Palestinian Authority elections, Hamas and Fatah have been fighting for dominance. And ,with armed struggle gaining support following the May conflict, militants are feeling more confident to engage Israeli forces.
Hamas has a strong presence in many villages and cities in the West Bank, and a recent study published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 45% of Palestinians believe Hamas should lead and represent them, while only 19% said Palestinian President’s Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah should represent them.

The poll found that 78% of Palestinians want Abbas to resign.

The Hamas cell that was targeted likely also wanted to increase the pressure on Abbas and the ongoing and important security coordination between Israeli security forces and Palestinian Authority security forces (PASF).

Though the PASF have been trained and armed by the United States and other international forces, they have struggled to crack down on Hamas’ activities, due in part to their fear of engaging with Hamas operatives. And due to that fear, the large Hamas cell was able to coalesce right under their noses.

The fact that one of the Palestinians killed during the raids was a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) shows that the two terror groups cooperate not only in the firing of rockets from the Strip but also in terms of deadly attacks emanating from the West Bank.

The group also showed the Palestinian street that less than six months after Operation Guardian of the Walls, they are ready and willing to drag the IDF into another deadly conflict, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Hamas has made it clear that even as they negotiate with Israel to rebuild the destroyed coastal enclave, they have not abandoned the armed struggle against its citizens.

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