Palestine Pulse

Hamas denies plot to infiltrate Palestinian Authority security

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Article Summary
A recent Israeli newspaper report claims Hamas penetrated Palestinian security services in the West Bank.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — West Bank security services reportedly uncovered a Hamas plan to infiltrate the services over the past year by bribing or threatening dozens of officers to gain their cooperation — something Hamas denies.

"Several high-ranking sources in the Palestinian Authority" (PA) recently revealed that military intelligence had uncovered the spy network several months ago, Yedioth Ahronoth reported April 23. It said a number of officers were arrested and charged with spying for Hamas. The newspaper said Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip and abroad hatched the plan.

However, spokesman for the Palestinian security services Adnan al-Dumeiri has a different version of the story. He told the official Palestinian news agency Wafa on April 23 that two members of the security services were arrested about two years ago on charges of leaking information to Hamas. He denied the Israeli report about the arrest of dozens of officers.

Dumeiri said he questions the motivations of those who reported such information.

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Media reports published in January and February 2018 revealed the PA had authorized, in cooperation with the CIA, wiretaps on Palestinian officials. This information was leaked to the media by an officer in the PA’s preventive security service in the West Bank after he left his job.

A Palestinian security official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the Palestinian General Intelligence Service discovered in early 2018 that a number of security officers working in the intelligence services and preventive security had leaked information to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The source said the investigations conducted by the security services proved Hamas was focusing on hacking into the electronic devices of security services leaders and officers to acquire documents and information.

He believes some officers in the West Bank might still be working for Hamas. But, he added, security services have received information from some detainees to thwart any new Hamas attempts to infiltrate the security services or any other PA institution.

On the other hand, Hamas has arrested and prosecuted several members of the PA security services in the Gaza Strip in recent years on charges of “communicating with the PA in Ramallah” and gathering information on Hamas and the Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader Yahya Moussa told Al-Monitor Hamas has not infiltrated the security services in the West Bank. “The Israeli media is trying to deepen the division in the Palestinian arena by publishing such fake news," he said.

He explained that despite Hamas’ conviction that the security services in the West Bank coordinate with Israel in terms of security and intelligence against some Palestinian factions by virtue of the Oslo Accord, Hamas does not return the favor. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement, signed between the PLO and Israel in 1994 as an annex to the Oslo Accord, mentioned details of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians and how they exchange information around the clock.

The Yedioth Ahronoth article also quoted PA security sources as saying Hamas is trying to recruit security service officers, taking advantage of their need for money since the PA has only been paying them half their salaries for the past two months. This is due to the financial crisis plaguing the Palestinian government after it refused on Feb. 27 to receive the clearing funds from Israel since the latter had reduced 502 million shekels ($138 million) from the Palestinian clearing revenues.

According to Alaa al-Rimawi, director of Al-Quds Center for Israeli and Palestinian Studies in Ramallah, the West Bank, the PA and Hamas are trying to infiltrate each other, but the PA has been more successful. The PA is committed to the Oslo Accord, which obliges it to fight any resistance or armed action in the Palestinian territories. The PA is thus continuously monitoring all operations by Hamas and other Palestinian factions, he told Al-Monitor.

Rimawi said the Palestinian division has increased suspicion and mistrust between both parties, which has increased infiltration efforts. He believes Hamas has already managed to hack the PA's electronic devices because it has hacked Israeli soldiers' phones on several occasions.

Ibrahim Habib, a security studies professor at the Management and Politics Academy in Gaza, told Al-Monitor Hamas may have conducted electronic hacking with the help of some officers in the Palestinian security services. Like Rimawi, Habib said hostility between Hamas and the PA has worsened over the years of division, strengthening their security efforts against each other.

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Found in: palestinian government, west bank, oslo accord, gaza, palestinian authority, hamas, spy

Ahmad Abu Amer is a Palestinian writer and journalist who has worked for a number of local and international media outlets. He is co-author of a book on the Gaza blockade for the Turkish Anadolu Agency. He holds a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Gaza.

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