Gazan laborer arrested in Israel as Hamas spy, Shin Bet says

Agency says Saber Abu Thabat provided interrogators with ‘vast amount of information’ on terror group’s operations and military sites

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Illustrative: Palestinians from the Gaza Strip enter Israel through the Erez Crossing. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Palestinians from the Gaza Strip enter Israel through the Erez Crossing. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli security forces have arrested a Palestinian man from the Gaza Strip on suspicion that he spied in Israel on behalf of the Hamas terror group, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday.

The agency said that Saber Mahmoud Yosef Abu Thabat, 28, from the central Gazan city of Deir al Balah, had a permit to enter Israel for work. He was arrested in early November and an indictment against him is expected to be filed at the Beersheba District Court in the coming days, leading the Shin Bet to release information about the case.

According to the Shin Bet, Abu Thabat was recruited by Hamas to “gather intelligence and carry out missions in Israel.”

The agency said he held several meetings with his Hamas operators on the Palestinian side of the Erez border crossing before crossing into Israel to allegedly spy for the group.

The Shin Bet accused the Hamas operators of instructing Abu Thabat to collect and reveal personal information on Shin Bet agents, as well as scout out strategic sites in Israel.

“As part of his interrogation, and due to his activity in Hamas and the knowledge he was exposed to, a vast amount of information was obtained about the operating methods of Hamas’s intelligence mechanisms, including the identity of operators, locations of tunnels, weapon stockpiles, and military locations from which the organization operates,” the Shin Bet said.

The agency said Abu Thabat was aware he was using his permit to spy for the terror group.

Palestinian members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas terror group in Gaza City, September 21, 2022. (Attia Muhammed/Flash90)

The case comes amid an ongoing debate in Israel about allowing large numbers of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip into Israel to work, a move that the army has historically supported as a stabilizing measure by boosting the Gazan economy, and the Shin Bet has generally opposed, fearing that it would be abused by Hamas or other terror groups to carry out and coordinate attacks against Israeli targets.

Israel recently raised the quota of work permits for Gazan Palestinians to 17,000.

“The Shin Bet views any direction of terrorist activity and espionage from the Gaza Strip with great severity, and will continue to work together with the Israel Police and the IDF in order to locate and thwart in advance any hostile activity by all parties operating on behalf of Hamas,” the agency said in a statement on Thursday.

The Shin Bet noted that last week it revealed it had arrested another Gazan laborer, accused of planning a bombing attack on a bus in southern Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.

Most Popular
read more: