The Hamas interior ministry on Sunday denied a report that claimed the terrorist group had arrested a senior commander in its armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, on charges of collaboration with Israel.
The unnamed “Palestinian sources” had claimed that a senior Hamas naval commander fled the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after suspicions arose that he was working for Israel, while another was arrested. The fugitive, said to have overseen the terror group’s divers unit, escaped on an Israeli military boat with a laptop, cash, surveillance equipment, and “classified, dangerous documents.”
“We reject the fabricated rumors published by [Saudi-based channel] al-Arabiya, which attributed claims to the interior ministry regarding the arrest of several Hamas members on charges of collaborating with Israel. We emphatically state that al-Arabiya practices deception and works to spread rumors and lies,” the Gaza-based terror group said in a statement on Sunday.
The same unnamed sources alleged that the discovery of the two double agents sent Hamas leaders into a “state of hysteria,” as the group made dozens of arrests in search of additional suspects in the alleged spy network.
The report, which was circulated in a number of Arabic and Hebrew publications, was originally published in Amad, a media organization close to exiled Fatah commander Mohammad Dahlan. Dahlan, currently based in the UAE, was expelled from Gaza in 2007 after losing a violent conflict with Hamas for control of the territory.
After Hebrew media picked up sections of Amad’s article, Amad published a follow-up story saying that Israeli publications had “confirmed” the scoop.
Arabic-language media have been buzzing in recent weeks with alleged revelations about Israeli-directed espionage in the Gaza Strip and traitors at the highest levels of Hamas, ever since the terror group announced the arrest of several members of an “Israeli-directed” spy ring planning “sabotage” in the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.
“The security services discovered a cell directed by the Israeli occupation as it attempted to conduct sabotage against resistance elements,” the ministry said in a statement at the time, without providing details of their motives or targets.
The Shin Bet security service declined to comment at the time.
Hamas routinely announces arrests of suspected collaborators with Israel. In April, Hamas said that it had arrested a number of Palestinians who spied for Israel during a wave of protests at the Gaza border fence 2019, according to Arabic-language daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.
Hezbollah-affiliated al-Akhbar quoted security sources in Gaza connecting the arrests to an alleged plot by Islamic State-inspired Salafists whom an Israeli-controlled agent had recruited to strike Hamas targets. The agent, after successfully convincing the IS-inspired cell that he was an IS member, directed them to blow up Hamas-run courts and ministries, al-Akhbar said.
While Hamas is a violent Islamist movement, it has often clashed with followers of other extreme organizations in the Strip.
In August 2019, three Hamas policemen were killed in apparent suicide bombings. Sources at the time indicated that the Islamic State could have masterminded the operation, as IS considers itself to be at war with Hamas. No further details were ever released by the Hamas interior ministry regarding the identities and motives of the perpetrators.