Speech by Hamas chief Mashaal might have been signal for kidnapping, say security sources

Senior source believes kidnappers did not receive official "operational order", but rather heard Mashaal say Kassam Brigades would solve prisoners' hardships.

A speech by Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Doha last month may have been a signal for Hamas in Hebron to move ahead with a kidnapping of Israelis, security sources said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the sixth day of the IDF operation to retrieve the three youths abducted in the West Bank, one senior security source said he believed the kidnappers did not receive an official “operational order” to kidnap the Israelis.“Based on my knowledge of them [Hamas in the West Bank], they do not receive such orders,” he said.Instead, the source said, “they heard a speech by Mashaal at the end of May, in which he read out a letter,” sent by a Hamas prisoner speaking of his hardships.After reading the letter, Mashaal said he is aware of the prisoners’ difficulties, adding that they will be solved by Izzadin Kassam, Hamas’s military wing. Hamas in Hebron likely interpreted that as a demand to “carry out an operation,” according to the source.Nevertheless, the kidnapping required complex organizational assistance. The kidnappers would need funding, abettors and other forms of assistance, the source said.“The reconciliation [with Fatah] does not mean an end to our resistance against the invaders, resistance will continue as long as the occupation exists,” Mashaal said in his speech to mark Nakba Day.Meanwhile, as the IDF continues large-scale military searches of homes, caves and open areas in the southern West Bank, other maneuvers are under way, the source said.The kidnapping comes in the midst of ongoing Hamas efforts to rebuild its terrorist- guerrilla infrastructure in the West Bank, which was severely weakened between 2002 and 2006 during Israeli counterterrorism operations, he said.In the Gaza Strip, the source said, Israel has not shied away from increasing the number of terrorist targets hit by the air force in response to Palestinian rockets fired on southern Israel in recent days.“We have hit four to six targets there for three days in a row in retaliation to rocket attacks,” he said.The IDF remains on the lookout for attempts by Palestinian terrorist factions to bring the Gaza Strip into the kidnapping crisis, motivated by an “identification” with Hamas in the West Bank, he said.Israel has in recent days deployed Iron Dome air-defense batteries across the south of the country.