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Hamas trying to drum up support in West Bank, Shin Bet says, arresting 13

Israeli security services break up plot by terrorist group to win over local Palestinians with social programs, money

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF troops make a late-night arrest in the West Bank on January 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF troops make a late-night arrest in the West Bank on January 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Israeli security forces arrested 13 alleged Hamas members on Sunday night who were involved in a “hearts and minds” operation in the West Bank aimed at garnering local Palestinian support for the terrorist organization, the Shin Bet security service revealed Monday.

Over the past few weeks, the Shin Bet, working alongside the Israel Defense Forces, uncovered the “extensive” Hamas operation in the West Bank, specifically in Ramallah and the surrounding areas, the agency said.

This Hamas operation, which included dozens of operatives, was geared toward winning over the Palestinian population through social outreach projects and financial assistance.

Hamas gave money to Palestinian prisoners, to the families of terrorists and to its student auxiliary, known in Arabic as Kutla Islamiyah, the Shin Bet said.

Members of the Izz ad Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, take part in a ceremony, on December 18, 2016 in Gaza City, in the memory of one of their leaders, Mohamed Zaouari, who was murdered in Tunisia. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
Members of the Izz ad Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, take part in a ceremony, on December 18, 2016 in Gaza City, in the memory of one of their leaders, Mohamed Zaouari, who was murdered in Tunisia. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

In addition to making 13 arrests, security forces also seized alleged Hamas funds, a vehicle and a large amount of propaganda.

One of the 13 people detained was a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the defunct parliament of the Palestinians.

According to the Shin Bet, the funding for this operation came both from abroad and from the Gaza Strip, where Hamas rules.

“The discovery of this infrastructure teaches us about the ongoing strategic intentions of Hamas to operate and set itself up in the field, as it tries to undermine the local authority. And this is done alongside its attempts to carry out vicious terror attacks,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

Also on Sunday night and early Monday morning, IDF troops arrested 17 other Palestinians suspects in operations across the West Bank, the army said.

Illustrative. IDF troops make a late-night arrest in the West Bank on January 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Illustrative. IDF troops make a late-night arrest in the West Bank on January 11, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In the village of Safa, west of Ramallah, security forces arrested an alleged Hamas member and seized thousands of shekels that “according to intelligence information” came from terrorist organizations, the army said.

Another alleged Hamas member was picked up in the village of Rantis, north of Modiin.

IDF soldiers and Shin Bet agents also shut down a workshop in al-Aroub, outside Bethlehem, which the army said was used to manufacture illegal weapons. Four drill-presses were also confiscated.

Five of the people arrested are suspected of throwing rocks or taking part in violent demonstrations. The army would not disclose the charges against the other detainees.

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