TEL AVIV – Terror groups allied with Hamas in the Gaza Strip are planning a series of large-scale attacks against Israeli positions near Gaza “within the coming days,” including rocket attacks, suicide bombings against Jewish communities and raids of Israeli military posts, several senior terror leaders in Gaza told WND today.
Palestinian and Israeli security officials said they are aware of the attack plans. Israel said it beefed up security at Gaza border crossings.
The Palestinian officials said the threatened large-scale attacks, which they claimed may be imminent, are meant to provoke an Israeli military response in Gaza that would unite the Palestinians and thwart any attempt by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
“The Israelis have misunderstood the period of calm in last few weeks and months. This was the calm before the storm,” Abu Abir, spokesman of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees terror organization, told WND.
“The Palestinian resistance will carry out very soon a big offensive that will include shootings of rockets for a distance farther then until recently; it will include tunnel attacks and suicide attacks inside Israel,” Abu Abir said.
The terror leader urged Israel to respond with a Gaza assault.
“We wish Israel will come in (to Gaza) in a bigger way because we will turn the entire area of the Israeli operation into a big cemetery filled with Zionist soldiers,” Abu Abir said.
The Popular Resistance Committees is an umbrella of several terror groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Islamist sections of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared “military wing” of Abbas’ Fatah party. Israel says the Committees carries out terror attacks at the direction of Hamas.
Abu Ahmed, the northern Gaza commander of the Al Aqsa Brigades, told WND today his group decided to participate in the coming spate of threatened attacks from Gaza.
“The United States is pressuring Fatah leaders like (Gaza-based Fatah strongman and former PA security chief) Mohammad Dahlan into collaborating with them and dismantling the Palestinian government. We will not let the U.S. dictate the future of the Palestinian people,” Abu Ahmed said.
Abu Ahmed said that while his cell of the Brigades will work with Hamas, other Al Aqsa Brigades cells may not.
Asked whether his group is planning to attack Israel in order to stall the dismantlement of the Hamas-led government, the Committees Abu Abir replied, “No. But these attacks will mark to our people that the enemy is Israel. Killing Israelis hurts the Americans and the Israelis and this is who we should target. Not each other.”
The last major Hamas-led attack from Gaza was a well-coordinated raid through a tunnel of an Israeli military station at the Gaza border during which Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. The attack, which took place in June, resulted in the first large Israeli ground assault of the Gaza Strip since the Jewish state vacated the territory last August.
Israeli security officials say they have received multiple attack warnings against the same military station in recent weeks. They also said they received warnings of possible tunnels dug from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities.
Hamas won a majority of Palestinian parliamentary seats in elections earlier this year. According to multiple press reports, Abbas has been considering dismantling the Hamas-led PA. As Palestinian president, Abbas has the authority to abolish the PA and establish an emergency government that he would head for three months, at which point new elections would be held. Under certain circumstances, Abbas can maintain and lead the emergency government indefinitely, usurping Hamas’ power.
Major Hamas-Fatah clashes are feared if Abbas dismantles the PA, said Israeli and Palestinian security officials.
Last month, Hamas and Fatah engaged in heavy gunfights in Gaza, Judea and Samaria after negotiations to establish a national unity government between the two appeared to have fallen through.
Even if any Hamas-directed attacks are not carried out, Israel might still conduct a major military operation in the Gaza Strip in the near future, according to senior Israeli Defense Force officers speaking to WND today.
Yesterday, WND broke the story the Israeli military is set to present battle plans for approval by the government here later this week for a large-scale Gaza offensive, including possible reoccupation of parts of Gaza, according to senior IDF officers .
The IDF assault, a version of which includes reoccupying parts of Gaza, is aimed at blocking Egypt-Gaza smuggling routes, confiscating weaponry already transferred into Gaza, halting the rocket-firing at Jewish communities and badly damaging Gaza’s terror infrastructure.
The officials said the offensive is “crucial” for Israel’s security and would be the largest military operation launched against Palestinian terror groups in Gaza since Israel evacuated the territory last year.
The statements follow the regular firing of rockets by Palestinians in Gaza aimed at nearby Jewish communities and continued reports that massive amounts of weaponry have been smuggled into the territory from neighboring Egypt.
Meanwhile, if Abbas indeed dismantles the Hamas-led Palestinian government, there are fears Hamas might target both Israeli and regional United States interests.
A report in Time Magazine this past weekend quoted several anonymous Hamas sources claiming the U.S. was urging Abbas to dismantle the PA. The sources, speaking to Time anonymously, said clandestine meetings were held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to discuss the possibility of targeting the U.S.
The report said the Israeli intelligence estimate is that, for now, Hamas will restrain from targeting the U.S., but if its government is toppled, such restraint could dissipate.
Speaking openly to WND Sunday, Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ so-called military wing in Gaza, confirmed the Time report.
“The Americans are supporting Israel unfairly and are playing a leading role in the conspiracy against the (Hamas led) Palestinian government. All Palestinians feel a hatred toward the American government and wouldn’t mind attacks [against it], but for now we are limiting our fight to Palestine,” said Abu Abdullah, who is considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas’ declared “resistance” department.
Abu Abdullah warned to WND that if the Hamas government is “toppled” with the help of the U.S., then “all options are open.”