Hamas indoctrination centers for university students seen as recruiting tool

Special to WorldTribune.com

JERUSALEM — Israel’s intelligence community has detected a
significant increase in Hamas activities in the West Bank.

Officials said Hamas was being allowed by the Palestinian Authority to
expand a range of non-military activities in the West Bank. They cited
Islamist indoctrination, charity, education and political programs in
several cities in the region.

Hamas established so-called dawa, or indoctrination, centers throughout much of the West Bank.  /AFP
Hamas is said to have established indoctrination centers throughout much of the West Bank. /AFP

“The PA is closely monitoring Hamas terror activities, but has become much more lax in other areas that we believe could result in terrorism,” an official said.

Officials said the Hamas escalation began in late 2012 in wake of the war between Israel and the Gaza Strip. They said PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas ordered security forces to allow Hamas to conduct Islamist-related activities that did not challenge the Ramallah regime.

As a result, Hamas established so-called dawa, or indoctrination, centers throughout much of the West Bank. Officials said the indoctrination
targeted high school and university students in what could form a future pool of recruits for Hamas.

Under the program, called Kutla, or bloc, Hamas organized groups of
young Muslims to study the Koran on a daily basis, distribute food to the
needy and help pre-teenagers. Officials said Hamas appeared to invest much
of its efforts in recruiting students of Palestinian universities.

Officials said Hamas was now operating in every city in the West Bank,
including Ramallah. They said this marked a significant expansion from the
longtime strongholds of Hebron, Jenin and Nablus.

So far, the PA has been restrained amid the escalation of Hamas
activity. Officials said the exception has been Ramallah, where dozens of
Hamas operatives were arrested and charged with establishing a branch in the
PA capital.

“The PA’s message to Hamas is quite clear: You can operate as long as
you don’t get too close to the center of power,” the official said.

In contrast, the Israeli intelligence community has sought to block
non-insurgency Hamas activities. Officials said the Israel Security Agency,
responsible for domestic intelligence, has been tracking and intercepting
couriers from Israel and Jordan assigned to relay cash to Hamas operatives
in the West Bank.

On May 28, the PA was said to have arrested four Hamas operatives in the
West Bank. At the same time, the Israel Army arrested senior Hamas and
Islamic Jihad operatives in the region.

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