ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Israel says Hamas tried to enlist Israelis as unsuspecting couriers for weapons

Shin Bet security agency says operation began before October 7 onslaught, as West Bank-based members of terror group used fake social media profiles to recruit delivery drivers

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

A fake ad used as part of a Hamas plot to use unsuspecting Israelis as couriers for weapons. (Courtesy Shin Bet)
A fake ad used as part of a Hamas plot to use unsuspecting Israelis as couriers for weapons. (Courtesy Shin Bet)

The Shin Bet security agency revealed on Wednesday that it had uncovered a Hamas plot to enlist Israeli delivery drivers via social media to unknowingly distribute weapons for use in terror attacks.

According to the agency, the operation — which began before the current war in Gaza — was carried out by Hamas’s so-called West Bank headquarters, a unit involved in advancing terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank.

On December 18, IDF troops raided a site in Gaza belonging to the unit, seizing documents and computers that revealed the terror group’s efforts to carry out attacks from the West Bank, the agency said.

One of the documents revealed that Hamas operatives in Gaza maintained contact with Jewish Israelis from the Jerusalem area and elsewhere. In September 2023, the recruited individuals were tasked by Hamas operatives to carry out deliveries in Israel and the West Bank, according to the Shin Bet.

The Hamas operatives posed as Israeli expats and used fake social media profiles to seek to have items delivered, the Shin Bet said.

After the initial contact via Facebook, the Shin Bet said, conversations moved to WhatsApp, with the Hamas operatives instructing the unsuspecting drivers on the delivery tasks. The Hamas operatives never called and only used text-based messaging, the agency said.

Illustrative: A delivery man rides an electric bike on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem, December 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The victims were tasked with delivering items, receiving cash, purchasing gifts and leaving them at various addresses without coordinating with a recipient, according to the Shin Bet. Among the locations where the victims dropped off gifts were a synagogue, a cemetery and the doorstep of several homes, it said.

The Shin Bet has assessed that the Hamas operatives sought to train the victims to deliver innocuous items, intending to later take advantage of them to unknowingly deliver weapons or explosive devices to terror operatives in Israel, or place them in public areas and other sites the terror group wished to target.

A month after the Hamas operatives tasked the drivers with initial deliveries, thousands of members of the terror group in Gaza launched a brutal terror attack against southern Israel, slaughtering close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 253 hostages, 136 of whom are believed to remain captive in the Strip.

Since October 7, troops have arrested more than 2,980 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,350 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 300 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

The security agency has in the past thwarted attempts by Iranians to recruit Israelis as spies via social media or use them to gather sensitive information. In December 2022, the agency revealed an attempt by Gazans to “catfish” Israelis using fake social media accounts of young Israeli women.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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