Hamas steps up recruitment of Israeli Arabs

Special to WorldTribune.com

TEL AVIV — Hamas’ military network in the West Bank has been
allegedly recruiting Israeli Arabs to conduct attacks in the Jewish state.

An Israeli court has released an indictment of two Israeli Arabs accused
of being recruited by Hamas to conduct bombings and shootings against
Israeli civilian targets. The indictment, released by a district court in
Nazareth on Jan. 5, alleged that a Hamas cell in the West Bank city of
Hebron was responsible for the recruitment.

Israeli soldiers patrol the West Bank city of Hebron on Aug. 21. /AP/Nasser Shiyoukhi

“There has been increased efforts by Hamas both in Israel as well as in the West to recruit people who can easily enter and get around the country,” an official said.

The defendants were identified as brothers Amir Farid Yassin Assad and Mahmoud Farid Yassin Assad, ages 28 and 19, respectively, and residents of the northern town of Kafr Kana. The two were said to have been recruited by Hamas in December and ordered to help smuggle explosive belts for suicide bombings in Israel.

The Hamas operative in the West Bank was identified as Jafar Sakafi, a resident of Hebron, deemed a major stronghold for the Islamic opposition. The indictment said Mahmoud was in contact with Hamas operatives in Hebron, Nablus and Jerusalem.

“He acted as a contact man between the terrorist elements,” the
indictment said. “He agreed to help obtain weapons for attacks and collect
information on where soldiers gather as well as recruit other Israeli
Arabs.”

Officials said Sakafi was arrested by Israeli authorities. They said
Sakafi confessed to helping plan suicide strikes in Israel.

This marked the arrest of at least the fourth Israeli Arab cell
recruited by or linked to Hamas in 2011. The indictment said Mahmoud hosted
a Hamas operative from the Nablus suburb of Beit Furik, identified as Wasim
Natzatzra, to organize an insurgency cell comprised of Israeli Arabs.

Mahmoud was also accused of meeting another Hamas operative, Maarouf
Hatatba, based in Jerusalem. Both Hatatba and Natzatzra were reported to
have been captured by Israel and cooperate in the investigation.

Officials said Hamas was also trying to recruit Westerners to facilitate
mass-casualty strikes in Israel. On Jan. 5, an Israeli court sentenced an
Australian to 30 months after he was convicted of helping Hamas acquire
missile guidance technology. Officials said the sentence reflected
a plea bargain for his cooperation with authorities.

The defendant, identified as Eyad Rashid Abu Arja, 47, was said to have
been recruited to use his computer engineering skills to help Hamas
operatives based in Saudi Arabia. Abu Arja, who also holds Jordanian
citizenship and was arrested when he arrived in Israel in March 2011, was
said to have been in contact with Hamas operatives for nearly 25 years and
in 2007 was approached to locate encryption devices and advanced
reconnaissance equipment.

Officials said Abu Arja, who arrived on his Australian passport, was
arrested as he sought to attend an Israeli trade show. They said Abu Arja,
directed by a Hamas activist in Saudi Arabia identified only as Borahan, was
ordered to establish a relationship with Israeli computer companies and
photograph shopping malls.

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