Egged bus attacked 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Lior Grundman)
The writer is a senior researcher of
the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public
Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a
former adviser to the Policy Planning Division of the Foreign Ministry.
The terror attack in the South on August 18, in which eight Israelis were killed – six civilians and two members of the security forces – was initiated and executed by the Palestinian terrorist organization known as the Popular Resistance Committees, which operates as a terrorist arm of Hamas. The operation represents a change in Hamas’s approach to the issue of the Arab Spring, from acting only passively as an observer, limiting itself to damage control, to an entirely new stance that attempts to reshape reality in the Middle East.
The PRC was established at the beginning of the second intifada, at the end of September 2000, by Jamal Abu Samhadana, who brought together under his command former officers who served in the Palestinian security services, as well as activists from Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups.
The ideology of the PRC is based on an extremist version of Islamism, which places the organization in the same category as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and even al-Qaida. The PRC was responsible for the October 2003 bombing attack on a US convoy in Gaza in which three American security personnel were killed.
Islam, in its view, is seen as the solution, or even a cure, for all the
problems of the Palestinian people. The leadership of the Popular
Resistance Committees believes that both “resistance in all its aspects”
and “jihad as the way of Allah” are the only paths to liberate all of
Hizbullah is perceived, in this context, as an exemplary model of how to wage the struggle against Israel.
The ideological affinity between the PRC and Hamas is also expressed
through a strategic alliance that includes close operational and
political cooperation in recent years.
The PRC backed the Hamas demand to hold Palestinian parliamentary
elections, as planned, in 2006 and supported its religious approach,
which sought legal justifications for participating in the elections.
During the campaign, the Popular Resistance Committees stood on the side
of Hamas, and its activists were instructed to assist Hamas with
propaganda on behalf of candidates for the latter group’s Change and
In the security arena, this strategic alliance was expressed through the
appointment of Abu Samhadana as general supervisor of the Ministry of
the Interior and National Security, with responsibility for the security
forces in the Gaza Strip. The PRC joined forces with Hamas and Jaish
al-Islam (the Army of Islam), which is identified with al-Qaida, to
conduct an attack in June 2006 on IDF forces inside Israel, just north
of Gaza, in which soldier Gilad Schalit was kidnapped.
Jaish al-Islam was involved in the kidnapping of foreign journalists,
including Alan Johnston of the BBC and two journalists from Fox News. It
has also been accused recently by senior Egyptian officials of
organizing attacks in Egypt for al-Qaida, including a suicide bombing of
a Coptic church in Alexandria in January, which killed 25 people.
Hamas security forces accepted into their ranks many activists from the
PRC, some of whom became senior officers. In all the military
confrontations with Israel, including the Gaza operation in 2009, PRC
operatives fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Hamas forces.
IN RECENT years, the Sinai Peninsula has provided Palestinian terrorist
organizations with a base for transferring weapons to Gaza and for
infiltrating Israel for operational purposes, or for building up a
terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. In October 2005, Israeli
security forces stopped a terrorist unit near Mitzpe Ramon that included
three senior operatives from the PRC. The unit had traveled from Gaza
through Sinai and was headed for Jenin in the West Bank, where it
planned to link up with the terrorist infrastructure in the city. Its
goal was to build up its operational capabilities in the West Bank,
including the manufacture of high-trajectory weaponry such as rockets
The responsibility for the recent attack on the South belongs to Hamas,
which employs various terrorist wings and provides them with sanctuary
in its territory, including those that identify with al-Qaida, like
Jaish al- Islam. At the root of this policy are both tactical and
strategic considerations. The combined attack that the PRC conducted
along the Egyptian border was intended to cause mass casualties among
Israeli civilians and perhaps was supposed to involve the kidnapping of
IDF soldiers and civilians.
Moreover, Hamas hopes to escalate the confrontation with Israel in order
to influence the direction of the popular revolts in the Arab world and
direct them to the issue of Palestine. Hamas sees the Arab Spring as an
enormous opportunity to recruit the Arab masses against the pragmatic
Arab regimes and force them to adopt a more anti-Israel policy. The
operation in the South sets the stage for a broad-based military
escalation in Gaza during the month of Ramadan that could create
shockwaves across the Arab world, where leaders are already having a
difficult time dealing with the popular revolts of recent months.
This Hamas policy replicates that of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is
the parent organization of Hamas. The Brotherhood stresses the need to
exploit the Arab Spring and mobilize the masses to overthrow the Arab
regimes as the first step toward liberating Palestine. After the fall of
Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, coordination between Hamas and the Brotherhood
Khaled Mashaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, was just in
Cairo meeting with the head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad
In summary, the Arab Spring could become a “Security Autumn” for Israel, as the skies darken due to regional developments.
This article was originally published on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website.