Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk has confirmed Arabic media reports that a member of the Gaza-based terror group collaborated with and subsequently defected to Israel.
“Hamas arrested a number of collaborators with the occupation… Some of them, or rather one of them, fled toward the occupation and the occupation gave him a warm welcome,” Abu Marzouk told the Lebanese pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen TV on Thursday.
A Tuesday report in the Saudi-sponsored Al-Arabiya outlet said that Hamas had arrested 16 members of a spy ring collaborating with Israel. While Hamas routinely announces the arrests of alleged collaborators, that ring was reportedly composed of members of Hamas’s own military wing.
Al-Arabiya further reported that Israel’s Mossad spy agency had recently facilitated the escape of senior commander Mohammad Abu Ajwa, who had previously led Hamas’s naval special forces, after Abu Ajwa had spied for Israel for years. The arrests of the remaining collaborators took place after Abu Ajwa’s escape, Al-Arabiya said.
While Hamas denied the report on Tuesday, Abu Marzouk appeared to confirm for the first time that the collaborators, including the one who had fled, were members of his group. Marzouk denied, however, that the collaborators were senior officials, or that they were operating in concert.
“They are isolated members. There is no connection between them. They are not commanders in the [Hamas military wing] Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, nor are they commanders in Hamas… What the occupation claims, that they are commando officers or senior naval officers, is absolutely false,” Abu Marzouk said.
Israeli authorities have yet to comment publicly on any of the stories in the Arabic press.
The Shin Bet security service declined to comment on Abu Marzouk’s statements to al-Mayadeen, saying that it does not respond to “foreign reports.”
Hamas officials first claimed in early July that their group had arrested several members of an “Israeli-directed” spy ring planning “sabotage” in the Gaza Strip.
Since then, Arabic-language media have been buzzing with alleged revelations about Israeli-directed espionage in the Gaza Strip and traitors at the highest levels of Hamas.
Tuesday’s report in Al-Arabiya said that after arriving in Israel, the senior naval commander provided information about weapons stockpiles and the residences of senior Hamas officials, leading the terror group to immediately move the materiel to other hideouts in the Strip.
In response to the supposed high-level defection, the report said the Gaza-based terror group embarked on a “restructuring” of its military wing by firing several senior officers. A second senior commander in Hamas’s internal security forces was also arrested for spying for Israel, Al-Arabiya reported.
In its denial of the Al-Arabiya report on Tuesday, Hamas accused Saudi Arabia of “lies” and of “closing ranks with the Zionist occupation.”