TEL AVIV ø Israel's military has infiltrated the leading Islamic
insurgency group in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli military sources said the nation's intelligence community has
infiltrated the Hamas movement in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The
sources said Israel's infiltration of Hamas in the West Bank has been so
thorough that the intelligence community usually received advanced warnings
as well as details of suicide bombing plots.
"This has been one of the most important developments in our fight
against Hamas," a military source said. "Three years ago, the idea of being
able to infiltrate Hamas was unimaginable."
A senior Israeli security official agreed that much of Israel's
information on Hamas comes from within the organization, Middle East Newsline reported. The official did
not dispute the assertion that Israeli intelligence has infiltrated Hamas.
The result has been a steady reduction in Hamas's operational capability
in what has prevented the Islamic organization from launching a major attack
in the Jewish state, the sources said. They said special operations forces
have killed or captured several leading Hamas operatives who had planned
suicide attacks in
Israel over the last few weeks. They said Hamas, amid a cash shortfall, has
been hard-pressed to replace senior operatives.
"Hamas has been trying extremely hard to carry out a terrorist attack,"
a senior Israeli security official said. "But for the first time, we have
determined that they have been facing serious operational difficulties."
Over a 48-hour period, Israeli authorities foiled several attacks. On
May 6, Israel's military located a car bomb containing three
explosive devices ready to be activated. The car was found in an olive grove
near the northern West Bank village of Salem, east of Nablus.
"It is important to stress that more than 70 suicide bombings inside
Israel were thwarted in the last seven months by the security forces in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip," an Israeli military statement said.
Israeli intelligence on Hamas leaders and operatives improved
significantly in both the West Bank as well as in the Gaza Strip in 2003,
the sources said. They said this has enabled Israeli forces to track the
movements of most senior Hamas operatives and obtain alerts of planned
At the same time, the sources said, Israel's military has been steadily
eliminating key Hamas operatives in the West Bank, particularly in Hebron
and Nablus. They said this has resulted in a sharp drop in the quantity and
quality of Hamas operations.
"The prime minister, in several key operations, has managed to erode
Hamas," Deputy Education Minister Zvi Hendel, a vociferous critic of
Israel's policy in the war against the Palestinians, said.
During April, Israeli authorities, aided by improved intelligence,
foiled a series of suicide bombings. On April 5, Fatah operative Said Zalah
arrested in Khan Yunis as he prepared for a suicide attack in Israel in
cooperation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Six days later, a senior Fatah operative, Wajah Abu Alun, involved in
sending a suicide bomber, was arrested in Jdeida. The following day, three
Hamas and Fatah operatives were arrested in the Bethlehem as they were
planning two separate suicide attacks.
Palestinian analysts agree that Hamas has been frustrated in its effort
to launch a major attack on an Israeli civilian target in wake of the
assassination of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdul Aziz Rantisi in March
and April. They said Hamas's failure could affect the popularity of the
organization as well as its recruitment efforts.
"Everybody has been anticipating a strong response to the
assassination," Hisham Ahmed, a professor of political science at
Birzeit University and author of a book on Hamas, said.. If this were not to
happen, I presume that the level of Hamas's popularity would be seriously