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Gazan used medical entry permit to scout for Hamas recruits in Israel — Shin Bet

Security service says suspect is veteran Hamas member, trained to operate anti-tank missiles; he has provided interrogators with intel on locations of Gaza tunnels, weapons caches

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Palestinians are seen on the Israeli side of the Erez Crossing near the border with the Gaza Strip, on September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinians are seen on the Israeli side of the Erez Crossing near the border with the Gaza Strip, on September 3, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Gazan man with a permit to enter Israel for medical treatment used his access to scout for potential recruits for the Hamas terror group, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday.

Hamas member Ahmad Abu al-Nour, 27, was arrested on January 24, and has since provided interrogators with vast intelligence about the terror group, the Shin Bet said.

According to Israeli authorities, al-Nour entered Israel for medical treatment last year but never returned home, instead staying in Israel illegally “for a number of months.” The Shin Bet refused to give his exact date of entrance into Israel.

In Israel, al-Nour attempted to find people who may be interested in joining or assisting Hamas, sending back the names of potential recruits to his handlers in Gaza, the Shin Bet said.

The security service noted that his efforts to recruit assets “did not succeed.”

Unlike in many cases in which Hamas has taken advantage of vulnerable Palestinians with medical permits to advance its aims, in this case, al-Nour was a long-time, willing member of the organization, according to the Shin Bet.

The security service said he joined Hamas in 2009, training to operate anti-tank guided missiles, and “took part in military activities against the State of Israel and even operated under the organization’s secret service.”

The Shin Bet refused to comment on whether or not it was aware of al-Nour’s affiliation with Hamas before he was granted a permit to enter Israel for medical care, but said there have been cases where known members of the group have been allowed in anyway.

After his arrest last month, al-Nour was questioned at length by Israeli interrogators and provided them with large amounts of information about the organization, the Shin Bet said.

“His activities in Hamas and the large amount of information he was exposed to led to a notable interrogation, in which a large amount of intelligence was revealed about the Hamas organization, including locations of tunnels, weapons caches and military positions from which the organization operates,” the Shin Bet said.

The security service, which has long warned that Hamas takes advantage of medical permits to advance its own interests, said the case of al-Nour “again exposes the cynical abuse by Hamas… of humanitarian permits that are given to Gaza residents.”

An indictment against al-Nour was expected to be filed in the coming days, the Shin Bet said.

Late last year, the Shin Bet revealed two other attempts by Hamas to take advantage of people with travel permits to gather intelligence on Israel, one involving a Palestinian man from Gaza and the second involving an Arab Israeli with family in the Strip.

The two men were recruited by the organization — with threats in the case of the Palestinian man — to take photographs of soldiers and Iron Dome missile defense batteries and collect other information about Israel.

The Shin Bet’s warnings about the risks posed by Gazans entering Israel come as the government has increased the number of travel permits in recent months.

In October, Jerusalem expanded the work permit program to allow up to 10,000 workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel, as part of ongoing efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.

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