By JPOST.COM STAFF
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Yuval Diskin gave a 2009 security summary Tuesday, saying that there had been a decrease in terror against Israelis, but warning against the release of Hamas terrorists to Judea and Samaria in a deal to secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
The Shin Bet head told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that although chances of a third intifada were slim, that might not remain the case should Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas be replaced with a more hard-line leader, and were convicted Hamas terrorists to be freed to the West Bank.
"If [Abbas] is replaced by a leader like [jailed Tanzim chief Marwan] Barghouti, who has a rich terrorist past, and if many Hamas terrorists are released to Judea an Samaria, they will be able to rebuild their terror infrastructure" in the West Bank, he said.
Diskin warned that Jewish extremism could also lead to an escalation of violence.
"The chances of returning to the days of 2000 are slim, but if dramatic events occur, provocations - like for example an attack on the Tempe Mount, torching mosques and the like - they could lead to violent demonstrations," he said. "Although, today I don't see among the Palestinian public a will to return to the terror wave of the year 2000."
He attributed the decrease in Gaza terror attacks to last winter's Operation Cast Lead, but his assessment also came with another word of warning.
"We are witnessing in Gaza intensive activity by Hamas to renew its [military] capacity, including by weapons smugging through tunnels," he said.
Diskin went on to say that the Global Jihad movement was increasing its strength in Gaza via the integration of smaller terror groups, adding that Hamas was worried by this phenomenon.
He said that although it was gaining popularity among young people in Gaza, the movement was still not an actual threat to Hamas.
"Both the Jihad and Hamas are continuing to get stronger," he continued. "Hamas was dealt a blow during Cast Lead. It's preserving the calm now but it has not been neutralized, and today its capacity is greater than on the eve of the operation - both its arms smuggling and defensive capabilities in Gaza."
Diskin went on to say that the Shin Bet had succeeded in dealing a blow to terror financing, particularly so-called Hamas humanitarian charities via which funds are used for terror.
He also said there was little chance of a peace deal with the Palestinians so long as Fatah and Hamas fail to reconcile their differences.
Also Tuesday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-military bureau chief, told Israel Radio that the government had taken into consideration the likelihood that a few of the released prisoners in a possible deal for Schalit's release will return to terrorist activities.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a tour of the Gaza Division on Tuesday that the quiet in the area was indicative of the success of Operation Cast Lead.
Still, continued Barak, "The dangers have not passed." According to the defense minister, "Hamas continues to get stronger and to prepare â€¦ Just last Friday there was an incident here in which three terrorists were killed while apparently trying to detonate a bomb along the fence."
When asked about a pending Schalit deal, Barak said that "the less said about it now, the better."
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