Hamas’ military wing denies any involvement in the kidnapping of the three Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron. Are they telling the truth? Probably not, and here is why.
Hamas made it known it intended to kidnap more soldiers after the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners they exchanged for the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
According to Palestinian intelligence sources I spoke with, Hamas is willing to pay millions of dollars for kidnapped Israelis for the sole purpose of exchanging them with prisoners. So why is Hamas’ spokesperson denying responsibility?
Hamas’ military wing operates in complete secrecy and independence from the rest of the movement. The spokesperson is definitely not lying, but he is not telling the truth either.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) regularly crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank by arresting their members, confiscating their resources, (money or weapons), planting spies among their various ranks, and monitoring the movements of Hamas’ members, even as they travel to neighboring countries.
This pressure has forced the military wing to adopt a new way of operating. It does that through small sleeper cells that are highly trained, have no knowledge of one another, and operate independently of each other. These sleeper cells exist all over the West Bank, and are especially active in Hebron.
Hebron has been the setting to at least two killings in the past year where Israeli soldiers were shot dead by snipers.
The first, in the old city of Hebron, an Israeli soldier was killed with a single bullet; the perpetrator, who used a silenced gun, was never found. The second operation was another solider killed near the town of Tarqoumia. The sniper descended from the top of a hill on a motorcycle, shot the soldier, took the soldier’s weapon and vanished into thin air.
DId Hamas Do It?
To this day, no one has confessed to either incident. But all fingers point to Hamas. Hamas never claimed responsibility either; a tactic used by Hamas for fear of retribution.
The location of each sniping, the efficiency with which they were done (one bullet used in each instance), and the planning that went into each operation all lead to one conclusion: these highly trained, sophisticated individuals are extremely hard to trace.
This latest kidnapping would seem to be part of Hamas’ plan to boost its standing among Palestinians, both in the West Bank and Gaza, as it appears to be handing over power to Abbas and moving back to being in the opposition.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu blamed Hamas and not any other group for the kidnapping of the three Israeli settlers.
Netanyahu’s blame is not based on solid evidence of who the kidnappers are, but based on intelligence agencies’ analysis and previous reports which clearly show Hamas has the most to gain from such kidnappings and in fact have tried several times before unsuccessfully to carry out such kidnappings.
According to Palestinian intelligence officers I spoke with, after the Gilad Shalit prisoners exchange, Hamas plotted three different scenarios to kidnapping Israelis.
The first is to repeat the Gilad Shalit scenario and try to kidnap Israelis close to Gaza and keep them there. The second scenario is to kidnap Israelis who are abroad and the third scenario, which was considered by the Palestinian intelligence agencies as the least likely one, is to kidnap Israelis in the West Bank.
This was the least likely scenario because even though it is the easiest to carry out, it was still viewed by Hamas to be too difficult to hide someone for a long period of time before Israel’s army discovers them.
So, it is clear that either Hamas has figured out a way to transport the kidnapped settlers to Gaza or they have found an efficient way to hide them in the West Bank. Either way, they will most likely deny involvement, keep quiet, and wait until it is time to negotiate.
The only good news about this scenario is that it would mean that the boys are alive and intended to be used as hostages in a prisoner exchange.