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PA denies official confirmed working with Shin Bet to prevent Hamas attacks

Palestinian spy chief was quoted saying PA ‘won’t allow’ retaliation by West Bank operatives for Mazen Faqha assassination in Gaza

Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces take part in a graduation ceremony for a Palestinian youth training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)
Members of the Palestinian Authority security forces take part in a graduation ceremony for a Palestinian youth training camp in the West Bank city of Jericho, January 25, 2017. (Flash90)

A source in the Palestinian Authority denied a Monday report that quoted the PA’s intelligence chief describing a joint effort with the Israeli Shin Bet intelligence service to prevent Hamas attacks.

Channel 10 news had cited Majed Faraj telling the German daily Der Spiegel that the PA was working to thwart retaliatory strikes by Hamas operatives in the West Bank against Israeli targets, in the wake of the recent assassination of one of the terror group’s leaders in Gaza.

“We will not allow the West Bank to serve as a base for any type of response,” Channel 10 news quoted Faraj as saying.

But a senior PA official told the Ma’an news agency later Monday that the report was “fabricated.” Der Spiegel also denied that it had interviewer Faraj.

The quotes attributed to the Palestinian intelligence chief would have referred to the killing Friday of Mazen Faqha, a Hamas official freed under the 2011 prisoner swap deal for IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Although neither Israel nor any other group has taken credit for Faqha’s assassination, Hamas blames Israel for the killing and has vowed to take revenge.

Israeli defense officials predicted this week that Hamas would try to retaliate for his killing via operatives in the West Bank rather than Gaza, possibly staging an attack within Israel.

Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)
Mazen Faqha, upon his release after the Shalit deal in 2011. (Screen capture Twitter)

“Hamas and its (military wing) hold (Israel) and its collaborators responsible for this despicable crime… (Israel) knows that the blood of fighters is not spilled in vain and Hamas will know how to act,” Hamas said in a statement reported by Reuters following Faqha’s death.

Khalil al-Haya, a deputy to Yahya Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, also promised retaliation.

“If the enemy thinks that this assassination will change the power balance, then it should know the minds of [Hamas] will be able to retaliate in kind,” he said on Sunday.

At a mass funeral procession for Faqha Saturday afternoon in Gaza City, participants chanted, “Revenge, revenge!”

Faqha hailed from the northern West Bank town of Tubas, where he was arrested in 2002 for his involvement in terrorism during the Second Intifada. He was serving multiple life sentences for orchestrating a 2002 suicide bombing in which nine Israelis were killed.

Following his release from prison in the 2011 Shalit deal, Faqha was expelled to Gaza, where he and fellow West Banker Abd el-Rahman Ghanimat founded the “West Bank section” within the Gaza-based group.

Members of the Hamas military wing attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza City on March 25, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Members of the Hamas military wing attend the funeral of Hamas official Mazen Faqha in Gaza City on March 25, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

According to Israeli intelligence, Faqha and Ghanimat’s “fingerprints” were on many attempted and successful terror attacks emanating from Hamas cells in the West Bank in recent years.

Although it was initially reported that Faqha was shot dead outside his home, the Palestinian al-Quds daily reported on Sunday that he was killed in his garage by gunmen who had lain in wait for him.

The gunmen used weapons equipped with silencers, and shot him four times, Sunday’s report said.

Hamas leaders have pointed to the professionalism of the killing as proof of Israel’s involvement.

“This assassination has the clear hallmarks of the Mossad,” Hamas’s Gaza Attorney General Ismail Jaber said, referring to Israel’s foreign spy service.

Faqha’s father, who lives in the West Bank, told a Hamas TV station that Israeli intelligence officers had warned the family three times that his son’s terrorist activity was going to get him killed. “They said Mazen was carrying out attacks against Israel, and that Israel’s arm is long,” he said.

Dov Lieber contributed to this report.

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