TEL AVIV – Was the Hamas terrorist organization intending to fire a rocket toward Israel’s international airport?
It has been released for publication that the Palestinian Authority two weeks ago arrested five members of Hamas and discovered a Qassam rocket in Beit Likya, a village about four miles from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.
PA security sources speaking to WND did not rule out the possibility Hamas was intending to fire the rocket as part of revenge for the assassination in Dubai last month of Hamas member Mahmud al-Mabhouh.
The Israel Defense Forces released an official statement the Qassam rocket was ready to be launched toward the center of the country.
“Information about the existence of the rocket was received from the Palestinian security apparatus,” stated the IDF.
PA sources, meanwhile, said there is larger evidence Hamas is attempting to set up a military infrastructure in the West Bank, which borders Jerusalem and is within rocket range of Tel Aviv and the airport.
The PA sources said Hamas is trying to compensate for major pressure against its militant efforts in the Gaza Strip by boosting its armed presence in the West Bank.
The sources said that in the last few weeks alone nearly $2 million in cash was confiscated from Hamas members. They said interrogations of recently arrested Hamas leaders revealed the Islamist group was using the money to help establish a West Bank military wing.
Israeli media reports today quoted Palestinian sources saying the PA smashed the Hamas cell in Beit Likya. But sources inside the PA told WND that at least three senior Hamas militants escaped a raid and are still seeking to establish a military wing in the city, which is about one mile from the major Israeli town of Modiin.
The Obama administration has backed a PA-led state in the West Bank. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November announced a 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in the territory in an attempt to jumpstart talks aimed at creating a West Bank PA state, a move that would first see an Israeli retreat from the area.
Following Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, Hamas seized the coastal territory, forcibly expelling the U.S.-trained security forces of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Now, Jordanian intelligence officials say, Hamas is attempting to set the stage for an eventual West Bank takeover.
PA security officials previously told WND that a recent Fatah investigation discovered Hamas had attempted with some success to establish a military wing in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, a longtime Fatah stronghold although the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad terror group also has a presence there.
Hamas gunmen in Jenin were thought to be numbered in the dozens, but the PA found out Hamas purchased more than 600 high-powered assault rifles and distributed them to fighters in the city, the security officials said. The officials said Fatah raids confiscated about 100 rifles, but they believe 500 more were handed out by Hamas in Jenin.
Fatah’s investigation also found that some members of its declared military wing, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group, were recruited by Hamas in Jenin with higher paychecks, security officials said.
Earlier this month, the PA arrested one of its own top police chiefs, accusing him of working for Hamas. The arrest highlighted the issue of Hamas infiltration of Fatah forces. That issue is significant since Hamas’ infiltration of Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip was thought to have been the Achilles heel that led to the terror group’s takeover in 2007 of the entire Gaza Strip.
Since the late 1990s, the U.S. has run training bases for PA militias. The U.S. also has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid and weapons to build up the PA militias.
The past two years, the U.S. stepped up its efforts at training the PA, running more advanced courses guided by Keith Dayton, the U.S. security coordinator to the Palestinian territories, who in 2007 initiated an advanced program for Palestinian police that trains 500 to 600 cadets at a time at the American bases.
The U.S. currently operates training bases for the PA police and other militias, such as Force 17 and the Preventative Security Services in the West Bank city of Jericho and also at U.S.-operated bases in the Jordanian village of Giftlik.
Still, Israeli security officials here say they are concerned Abbas’ Fatah organization in the West Bank is infiltrated by Hamas just as it was in Gaza in 2007.
Hamas’ infiltration of Fatah in Gaza was so extensive, according to top Palestinian intelligence sources, it included the chiefs of several prominent Fatah security forces, including Yussef Issa, director of the Preventative Security Services, the main Fatah police force. Issa regularly coordinated security with the U.S. and Israel.
Israeli security officials said despite recent U.S. training they were also concerned Abbas is not strong enough in the West Bank to impose law and order without the help of the Israeli army. According to the officials, Fatah’s intelligence apparatus routinely hands the Israel Defense Forces lists of Hamas militants that threaten Fatah rule, requesting that Israel make arrests.
Hamas leaders previously warned they would take over the West Bank if Israel pulls out of that territory.
At a Gaza rally in 2007, Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said, “Israel thinks Fatah in the West Bank is there to serve it, but we will take over the West Bank the way we took over Gaza.”
Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, stated Hamas will soon control Abbas’ office in the West Bank.
“In the autumn, Hamas supporters will be praying in the Muqata compound in Ramallah (the site of Abbas’ presidential office),” he said. “We are now praying at the presidential compound in Gaza, just as we said we would. Abbas’ regime will fall like a leaf come autumn.”
Military strategists long have estimated Israel must maintain the West Bank to defend itself from any ground invasion. Terrorist groups have warned if Israel withdraws, they will launch rockets from the West Bank into Israeli cities.
Many villages in the West Bank, which Israelis commonly refer to as the “biblical heartland,” are mentioned throughout the Torah:
The book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at Shechem (Nablus) and received God’s promise of land for his offspring. He later was buried in Hebron.
The nearby town of Beit El, anciently called Bethel, meaning “”house of God,” is where Scripture says the patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In the dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory.
And in Exodus, the tabernacle rested in Shiloh, believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.