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Tuesday, September 20, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israel: Hamas gaining access to West Bank, recruiting suicide bombers for attacks

TEL AVIV — Israel has determined that Hamas is organizing suicide squads for mass-casualty strikes.


Officials and analysts said Hamas has revived its network in the West Bank, particularly in the cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. They said Hamas was financing the recruitment of and equipment for suicide bombers for operations in Israel and the West Bank.

"Hamas is taking into consideration the renewal of suicide bomb attacks," Col. [Ret.] Jonathan Fighel said.

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In an address to the Interdisciplinary Center's Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Fighel, a consultant for the government and military, said Hamas was garnering increasing support for an insurgency campaign against Israel. He said Hamas also appeared to have been given greater leeway for recruitment and other activities in the West Bank, Middle East Newsline reported.

"It is gaining influence in the West Bank and acting more freely," Fighel, a reserve intelligence commander, said.

Officials echoed Fighel's assessment. They said Israeli authorities have captured 13 Hamas cells in August, financed from such countries as Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

Fighel pointed to the West Bank city of Hebron, a stronghold of Hamas. He said Hamas was gaining support for mass-casualty attacks on Israel's military and civilians.

"We're seeing more and more Hamas flags in Hebron," Fighel said. "The public atmosphere to Hamas is much more lenient. This allows the creation of operational terror cells."

Analysts said Hamas was exploiting the reconciliation agreement with the ruling Fatah movement to expand in the West Bank. They said Hamas, neither in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, was deterred by Israel.

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