PA police inJenin 248.88 great.
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas has lowered its profile in the West Bank out of fear its men will be captured by the Palestinian Authority and the IDF, and is operating a number of terrorist cells in every major city that are completely compartmentalized to ensure survivability, according to the latest military assessments.
The Islamist group has been severely weakened in the West Bank in recent years, with the IDF conducting almost daily operations in Palestinian cities that began after Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Since last year, the army has scaled back raids in some towns - such as Jenin, Nablus, Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem - and has allowed Palestinian forces, trained by the United States in Jordan, to carry out anti-Hamas operations.
"Hamas is very weak and today is working mostly on surviving and retaining its capabilities for a time sometime in the future when it decides to attack," a senior IDF officer explained on Tuesday.
That time may come toward the end of the year surrounding Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The IDF assessment is that the vote will not be held in January 2010 as scheduled, due to the breakdown in Egyptian-mediated talks between Fatah and Hamas. There is concern, though, that Hamas may attack Fatah-run institutions in the West Bank if it becomes frustrated with the political stalemate.
To retain its capabilities, Hamas has lowered its profile and split up its forces into cells in each city, totally isolating them from one another to prevent capture following the arrest of another cell.
"These cells do not talk to one another on cellphones or regular land lines," explained an IDF officer. "This way they retain their capabilities and on the day they decide to attack they will have the ability."
The army encountered such cells during a raid near Hebron on May 28. During the operation, an undercover Border Police unit killed Abd el-Majid Dudin, commander of the Hamas military wing, Izzadin Kassam, in the South Hebron Hills, after he had evaded capture for 14 years.
Dudin, 45, was the mastermind behind a series of suicide bombings, including one in Ramat Eshkol in Jerusalem and another in Ramat Gan, which together killed 10 Israelis and wounded dozens more.