Hamas minister denies West Bank terror activity

Hamas minister denies West Bank terror activity

Israel says Fathi Hammad recruiting activists to kidnap Israelis

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Former Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad (photo credit: image capture from YouTube video uploaded by Middle East Info)
Former Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad (photo credit: image capture from YouTube video uploaded by Middle East Info)

Hamas’s minister of interior denied on Wednesday that his organization was planning to abduct Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, and claimed reports to that effect were merely an Israeli attempt to deter the Islamist group from executing collaborators in Gaza.

Israel has accused minister Fathi Hammad of involvement in establishing Hamas cells in the West Bank, filing a complaint in late June with the Egyptian government which oversees the implementation of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas following November’s Operation Pillar of Defense. The Israeli daily Maariv reported last week that during a Shin Bet interrogation of Hamas activists in the West Bank, Hammad’s name emerged as the official who instructed them to kidnap Israeli soldiers.

But in a press statement published by London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, Hammad claimed that the Israeli allegations against Hamas were “completely detached from reality,” and were intended as a distraction from Hamas’s actual achievements in combating Israeli espionage in the Gaza Strip.

“The declining rate of collaborators in the Gaza Strip has left the occupation in a state of confusion, especially following the implementation of a death sentence against two collaborators who committed terrible crimes against the resistance and the Palestinian people,” Hammad wrote.

Hammad’s statements were unusual in light of Hamas’s habitual pride in planning armed attacks and kidnappings of Israeli soldiers. The abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is widely regarded in Gaza as a resounding success, having brought about the release of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in a subsequent prisoner swap deal with Israel.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defined the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers as Hamas’s typical policy at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in May, beseeching the Israeli leadership to offer the PA a peaceful alternative for the release of Palestinian prisoners. A Hamas military spokesman retorted to Abbas by claiming that abductions were at the heart of Palestinian culture.

On June 26, Hamas’s ministry of interior issued a statement accusing Israel of preparing the ground to target Hammad himself. Hammad, for his part, vowed to continue “pursuing collaborators and taking revenge on them to protect Palestinians from their danger, which resulted in the targeted killings of resistance commanders and founders.” 

Meanwhile, Gaza’s prosecutor general Ismail Jabar announced on Wednesday that a number of convicted murderers would soon be executed in the Gaza Strip. According to the interior ministry website, the judges in the case requested that the executions be performed with the media looking on, in order to deter potential criminals.

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