A secret Hamas unit in the Gaza Strip used Al-Aqsa TV to direct Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out attacks inside Israel, the Shin Bet said on Wednesday.
According to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), dozens of young Palestinian men and women from the West Bank and east Jerusalem who were in contact with the unit have been arrested in recent years.
The unit used the official Hamas satellite television channel to convey coded messages to recruit and direct sleeper cells to carry out terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing on a bus in Lod.
One of the cell members arrested by the Shin Bet, 21-year-old Yatta resident Qutayba al-Noega, was first recruited via Facebook last year by Hamas agent Muhammad Arbeed. Arbeed put Noega in touch with a Hamas operative who tried to enlist Noega to carry out a suicide bombing on behalf of the terrorist group.
While Noega “believed Arbeed was a journalist” since he wore a yellow “PRESS” vest during protests along the Gaza border, to prove that they were indeed Hamas operatives, the second Hamas operative who spoke with Noega told him to tell them which verse from the Koran to recite, then watch for it on a specific show on Al-Aqsa the following day.
The next day the station aired a segment in which the host discussed the same verse Noega had discussed with the operative. Once recruited, he was told that he had been chosen to carry out a suicide bombing on a bus in Lod.
He was arrested by Israeli security forces just days before he was to receive the explosive belt for the planned attack.
Four other men suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks for Hamas in the West Bank and Israel were also arrested by the Shin Bet, including 26-year-old east Jerusalem resident Alaa Sharauna, who had been recruited to form a “military cell” in the capital and was arrested on January 8.
According to the agency, Sharauna said that he had been asked to film various locations in Jerusalem on behalf of the group, since he had a blue Israeli identity card and it would be easier for him to gather intelligence for future attacks than it would be for West Bank Palestinians.
Another Palestinian, 21-year-old Bahaa Shaghaya from the village of Deir Ghir in Binyamin, a student of religious studies at Abu Dis University, was reported by the Shin Bet to be serving as the head of a secret Hamas student cell at the university, after being recruited by Hamas operative Musa Aliyan on Facebook, who presented himself as a journalist.
According to the Shin Bet, Shaghaya was recruited shortly after he was released from a two-year prison sentence in May, a sentence he served after being convicted of acting as part of a Hamas terrorist cell that recruited Palestinians for the purpose of carrying out shootings and suicide attacks against Israelis.
He was arrested again on December 16.
Less than two weeks later, 23-year-old Nablus resident Ahmad Abu-Aisha was arrested on similar suspicions. He is also suspected of recruiting 24-year-old Said Issa, and planned to carry out a stabbing attack in an Israeli settlement “inspired by the 2011 attack in which the Fogel family members were murdered,” the Shin Bet said.
The broadcasters who assisted Hamas’s military wing in transmitting messages were identified as 30-year-old Islam Bader from Jabalya, who is a Hamas activist and a well-known announcer at the station, and 32-year-old Raghei Hamatz, another Hamas activist and well-known announcer.