Shin Bet Exposes How Hamas’ Secret Unit Used Al Aqsa TV for Terrorism
The Shin Bet (Israel’s Security Agency) recently uncovered attempts by a clandestine Hamas unit in the Gaza Strip to recruit Arab residents of Judea and Samaria, as well as one Israeli national from eastern Jerusalem for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities against Israel.
The investigation also showed that broadcasts of Hamas’ Al Aqsa TV channel were utilized to send secret messages to the would-be-terrorists, the security agency stated Wednesday.
Over the past years, the Shin Bet has detained Arabs, including several women, from Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. They had been maintaining contacts with members of the clandestine Hamas unit and had worked under its guidance to carry out terrorist attacks.
As recently as October 2018, the Shin Bet exposed and disrupted another instance of the Hamas unit’s recruiting of Arabs for terrorism.
As part of the latest investigation, several terror operatives from Judea and Samaria were detained and questioned by the Shin Bet, exposing the methods used by Hamas in the Gaza Strip to recruit and handle these operatives.
Qutayba Al Nawaj’a, 21 from the Arab village of Yatta near Hebron, was detained for questioning on December 21, 2018. Al Nawaj’a revealed that a year earlier, he started communicating via Facebook with a Hamas operative from the Gaza Strip named Mohammad Arbid. At first, Al Nawaj’a believed Arbid to be a journalist since Arbid had photographs taken of him wearing a shirt with “PRESS” written on it during a riot on the Gaza border.
In November 2018, Arbid introduced Al Nawaj’a to another Hamas operative who introduced himself as a member of Hamas’ military wing and offered Al Nawaj’a to carry out terrorist attacks on behalf of Hamas.
To prove that Al Nawaj’a’s interlocutor was indeed a member of Hamas’ military wing, Al Nawaj’a was told to pick a verse from the Quran and watch the Al Aqsa TV channel the next day. The next day, an Al Aqsa TV anchor discussed the verse Al Nawaj’a had picked, and Al Nawaj’a saw this as proof that he was speaking with a Hamas member.
Al Nawaj’a was told by the Gaza-based Hamas operatives to carry out a suicide bombing using an explosive belt on a bus in Lod. Al Nawaj’a was meant to receive the explosive belt only days after his eventual arrest.
Another would-be-terrorist, Bahaa Shuja’iya, 21 of Deir Jarir, was a religious studies student at Abu Dis University and was the leader of Hamas’ clandestine student cell at the university.
He was released from prison in May 2018 after two years, after having been convicted of involvement in terrorism.
Shuja’iya was detained for Shin Bet questioning on December 16, 2018. His questioning indicated that several months after his release from prison, he was contacted by a Gaza-based Hamas operative via Facebook. The Gazan operative offered Shuja’iya to participate in a terrorist attack.
The Gazan operative communicating with Shuja’iya was Moussa Alayan of Jabalya, 24, a Hamas member who presented himself as a journalist on social media.
Another recruit, Ahmad Abu Aysha, 23 of Shechem (Nablus), was detained for Shin Bet questioning on December 26, 2018. Abu Aysha’s questioning revealed that he was approached by members of Hamas in Gaza with the aim of advancing terror activity. He also received messages via the Al Aqsa TV channel.
After being approached by the Gazan operatives, he recruited Hamas operative Said Issa, 24 of Shechem, to carry out a stabbing attack within Israel. This plan was inspired by the Itamar attack in 2011, in which five members of the Fogel family were murdered.
Alaa Sharawna, 26 and originally from Silwan in Jerusalem had an Israeli ID card. Sharawna was detained for Shin Bet questioning on January 8, 2019. Sharawna’s questioning showed that he had been recruited by members of Hamas’ military wing in Gaza to establish a military cell.
Hamas members Mohammad Arbid, Mohammad Aqel, and Mohammad Abu Kweik gave him tasks, such as filming points of interest in Jerusalem. They had also dispatched a courier from the Gaza Strip to Sharawna.
The Shin Bet and IDF are aware that operatives of Hamas’ military wing use Al Aqsa TV for terrorist purposes. This knowledge was a key factor in the decision to launch an air strike against the channel’s studios in the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018.
“We are aware that Al Aqsa TV anchors and reporters pass on hidden messages on behalf of Hamas’ military wing in the channel’s broadcasts. Their purpose is to convince recruited Judea and Samaria residents that the activity to which they were enlisted is indeed guided by operatives of Hamas in Gaza Strip,” the Shin Bet explained.
Another example of such use of hidden messages – in order to prove to a recruit from Judea and Samaria that he is indeed communicating with a Hamas operative from Gaza, the recruit was told to watch Al Aqsa TV on a certain date, when the anchor would put down his cup at the beginning of the program and recite a poem. By watching the program, the recruit received a confirmation of the Gaza-based operative’s claims.
Some of the anchors who aided Hamas’ military wing in broadcasting messages include Islam Bader of Jabalya, 30, a Hamas operative and well-known Al Aqsa TV anchor, and Rajai Hams of Gaza City, 32, a Hamas operative and well-known Al Aqsa TV anchor.
A senior Shin Bet official commented that “this activity by Hamas’ military wing is yet another one in the series of attempts by Hamas in the Gaza Strip to carry out terrorist attacks by recruiting operatives in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.”
“Hamas’ attempts to initiate this activity have failed again and again. Still, they shed light on the strategy chosen by Hamas to try to destabilize the situation in Judea and Samaria at any cost,” he added.
Hamas’ activity is “a dangerous destabilizing factor that poses a significant and immediate threat to the situation in the region,” he underscored.