Arrested Hamas operative reveals tunnel attack plot, Iranian aid
Israeli police and Shin Bet security services arrested in July a Hamas operative who revealed a new tunnel attack plot and detailed Iranian aid to Hamas during his questioning. Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer, a 21-year-old resident of Rafah, who had significant knowledge of Hamas’ actions in Rafah and tunnel digging, told Shin Bet that a road recently built by Hamas along the border fence was intended for a surprise attack on Israel involving vehicles that would even cross the border. Shaer’s arrest was cleared for publication on Tuesday. Shaer also disclosed specific emergency procedures followed by Hamas and the organization’s intention of using tunnels rebuilt since last year’s Operation Protective Edge to launch attacks in Israel. In particular, Shaer was able to supply the specific locations, paths, and digging sites of tunnels in the Rafah area leading in the direction of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. As a Hamas operative, Shaer was personally involved in a wide variety of training including combat, command, use of advanced weapons and explosives. During Operation Protective Edge, Shaer was active in a logistics and support company that helped transport military equipment and explosives to fighters in the field. Shaer was also directly involved in combat zones including planting anti-tank mines and observation duties. During his investigation, he talked about Hamas’ relationship with Iran which he said was shipping military aid to the Gaza Strip to strengthen the organization. Shaer said that Iran was sending money, advanced weapons and electronic equipment to the Gaza Strip including devices to disrupt radio frequencies meant to help down Israeli UAVs above the Gaza Strip. He also claimed that Iran had trained Hamas operatives in paragliding with the goal of infiltrating Israel. The Shin Bet also said that Shaer provided information regarding the formation of Hamas’ elite units, their anti-tank abilities, anti-air abilities and observation abilities. Shaer explained that Hamas has the ability to film at a distance of approximately three kilometres into Israeli territory. He also detailed changes in strategy and unit formations since Operation Protective Edge. Shaer told interrogators that Hamas used materials allowed into the strip for reconstruction to make weapons. In addition, he said that civilians were being put in danger as the organization regularly stores explosives in residential structures due to the fear that Israel would attack separate storage facilities for weapons. Shaer was indicted by a District Court in Beersheva (south) on July 31st. He was accused of membership and activity in an unlawful association, attempted murder, contact with a foreign agent, forbidden military training and various weapons offenses.
Palestinian Authority strengthening ties with Iran
Meanwhile, media reports suggested that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Iran are strengthening cooperation in a move which could impact both Israel and Hamas. Since Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Iran has clearly favoured Hamas over the PA, supporting the terror group with both arms and finances. However, Iran-Hamas relations have soured since Hamas refused to back Iran’s ally President Assad when violence erupted in Syria. Relations between Hamas and Iran have further strained this year after a high-level Hamas delegation visited Riyadh, the capital of Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia. A visit by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to Tehran was subsequently cancelled. Reports this week indicate that Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee which is closely aligned to the PA, met this week with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif in Tehran. Majdalani is said to have delivered a letter from PA President Mahmoud Abbas for Iranian President Rouhani. Majdalani told Palestinian radio that he had signed an agreement while in Tehran, to form a joint Iranian-Palestinian “high committee” to discuss political and economic cooperation. Reports also say that Majdalani made arrangements for President Abbas to visit Tehran within the coming two months.