Hamas terrorists 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas is considering a resumption of suicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians, a senior counterterrorism expert warned in Herzliya on Tuesday.
Col. (res.) Jonathan Fighel, a researcher with the Interdisciplinary Center’s Institute for Counterterrorism, spoke at the organization’s 11th annual terrorism conference.
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“We’re seeing more and more Hamas flags in Hebron. The public atmosphere to Hamas is much more lenient. This allows for the creation of operational terror cells. Hamas is taking into consideration the renewal of suicide bombing attacks,” Fighel said.
Fighel, who served in various operational and field posts of intelligence and research at the IDF Intelligence Corps and who has held several command positions in the West Bank, added that Hamas is “gaining influence in the West Bank and acting more freely.”
“Hamas was using the so-called Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement as a vehicle to raise its profile in the West Bank,” he added.
“Hamas’s strategy is to replace the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” Fighel said.
The Hamas regime in Gaza is also “looking for duality, to govern while keeping its charter. This is the flexibility it enjoys,” he said.
Fighel said Hamas was not deterred by Israel, adding that the Israeli government and public opinion had become accustomed to Hamas’s shelling of more and more cities with rockets.
Fighel expressed concern about recent Hamas activity in China and Turkey, describing the development as “very serious.” At the same time, he noted, Hamas suffered a resounding failure when it tried to cause the Palestinians to enter a third intifada in recent months.
Col. Ronen Cohen, a research associate with the Institute for Counterterrorism, and a former head of the terrorism section of IDF Military Intelligence, said the main goal of Hamas and Hezbollah now is ensuring their own survivability in their current form.
To that end, both have developed the offensive weapons of rockets to pound the Israeli home front, and defensive asymmetrical fighting forces to target IDF forces, he added.
Dr. Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, warned that some in the West were confusing occasional Hamas and Hezbollah displays of tactical flexibility with strategic flexibility, which he said was a fundamental misreading of the organizations’ objectives.