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The lack of diplomatic progress with the Palestinians could lead to a new round of anti-Israel violence within and from the West Bank and bring out new and dormant Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror cells, senior defense officials warned Thursday.
According to a high-ranking IDF officer stationed in the West Bank, Hamas is setting up sleeper terror cells, rebuilding its forces and stocking up on advanced weaponry. The weapons and cells, he said, could be used against the West Bank-based Fatah infrastructure as part of the ongoing battles taking place mainly in the Gaza Strip, but would most probably be used for terror activity.
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He said that during a recent meeting with a senior Palestinian Authority security official, he was warned that the lack of diplomatic progress could lead to a new wave of terror attacks originating in the West Bank. The PA official said that while the terror groups were relatively quiet during the recent war in Lebanon, they would not be patient for long and would consider using violence to try to pressure the government into making concessions.
The officer further revealed that terror groups were "studying" the war in Lebanon and trying to adopt Hizbullah fighting tactics - such as burying bombs in the ground and laying ambushes nearby - for fighting against the IDF in the West Bank.
Despite its heavy losses during the recent war, Hizbullah was still active in the West Bank and was behind the transfer of major amounts of cash to terror groups, particularly Islamic Jihad.
"Palestinian terror groups are trying to copy Hizbullah guerrilla tactics," he said. "They are constantly asking themselves what they can do to overcome and outdo the IDF."
While terror cells were still far from crossing the technological threshold that would allow them to manufacture and fire high-grade Kassam rockets at the Sharon region from the West Bank, he said it was "only a matter of time" before they achieved that capability.
During the war in Lebanon, he said, Hizbullah asked terror groups in the West Bank to step up attacks against Israel. A recently dismantled Fatah cell in Tulkarm, he revealed, made several attempts to fire Kassam-like rockets at central Israel but failed.
"We were able to significantly set them back with their missile infrastructure," the officer said.
"They have yet to cross the technological threshold, but it is only a matter of time before they do."
The official PA security branches were aware of the repercussions of a successful rocket attack on the center of the country launched from the West Bank, he said. "Within hours, we will have hundreds of soldiers deep inside Tulkarm," he warned.