A Shin Bet
investigation has exposed an attempt by Hamas
to renew activity in the West Bank, the general security service said.
The extensive organizational infrastructure that was uncovered in Ramallah and in villages in the West Bank's Binyamin region indicate the first effort made by Hamas in years to resume operations in the area. Some 30 operatives belonging to the terrorist organizations were arrested in the probe and are being indicted in a military court.
The command center was meant to promote Hamas' standing in the West Bank in order to increase its chances of gaining power in future elections in the Palestinian Authority. According to the Shin Bet, the operatives cultivated Hamas cells in universities with funding and activities, and transferred funds to Hamas prisoners and their families.
The investigation, which involved the IDF and the police, found that the operatives maintained contact with Hamas leaders abroad, taking extraordinary measures to conceal their identities and their intentions. The militants used messengers, aliases, memory cards and e-mail. Meetings were held under extreme secrecy.
Attempts to restore a command center in the Hebron and Bethlehem regions were foiled with the operatives' arrests. Among the detainees were two Hamas members who admitted to being involved in the lynch
that claimed the lives of two IDF reserve solders at a Palestinian police station in Ramallah in 2000.
The charges brought against the operatives include membership, employment and carrying out services for an illegal group, maintaining contact with the enemy and transferring enemy funds into the West Bank. The military court decided to keep the defendants in custody until the trial is over.
The Shin Bet said that the command center was run by Murad Muhammad Khaled Abu Baha, with several others operating under his direction to manage the headquarters' finances, oversee student and prisoner affairs and supervise activity in various areas of the West Bank.