"The Heroes of Silwad": poster issued by the military wing of Hamas congratulating the two perpetrators of the shooting attack in the village of Shvut Rachel, in which an Israeli civilian was killed.
Saleh Muhammad Suleiman al-Arouri (imemc.org, June 20, 2014)
Senior Hamas operative Hussam Badran, who was released in the Shalit deal, during a stay in Turkey (Hamas forum, October 19, 2012)
Hamas operative Ahmed al-Najjar, Jordan-based handler of the terrorist network from Silwad that carried out the shooting attack that killed Malachi Rosenfeld (mepanorama, July 20, 2015)
1. In July 2015, Israeli security forces uncovered a Hamas military network from the village of Silwad (north of Ramallah), whose operatives were involved in the shooting attack on June 29, 2015, near the village of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah. Malachi Rosenfeld was killed in the attack and three people were wounded. Two days earlier, this network had carried out a shooting attack on an Israeli ambulance. Under questioning, the network operatives, some of whom also detained by the Palestinian Authority, revealed that their handler was a Hamas operative in Jordan. The handler was Ahmed al-Najjar, from the village of Silwad, who was previously imprisoned in Israel, released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal (hereinafter: the Shalit deal) and deported to the Gaza Strip. He moved from the Gaza Strip to Jordan and from there he handled the Hamas terrorist network.
2. This case illustrates how Hamas operatives residing in the Gaza Strip or in various Arab/Muslim countries play a central role in handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria. Their activity gathered momentum over the year that has passed since Operation Protective Edge, as a result of Hamas’s efforts to recruit and handle terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria (while Hamas takes care to maintain the lull in the Gaza Strip).
3. The terrorist networks are instructed by their handlers to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in Judea and Samaria but sometimes also in Israel itself, thereby challenging the Palestinian Authority. In some cases, Hamas terrorist operatives also engage in incitement to carry out attacks, through the local and Arab media. Most of the attacks that these networks tried to carry out over the past year were thwarted by the Israeli security services and a small number were thwarted by the security services of the Palestinian Authority. In some cases they managed to carry out fatal attacks, the last of which was the shooting attack near the village of Shvut Rachel, north of Ramallah.
4. Terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria are handled from the Gaza Strip and from Arab/Muslim countries. When questioned by the Israeli security services, terrorist operatives repeatedly mentioned Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Malaysia (along with the Gaza Strip) as countries where terrorist operatives in Judea and Samaria are recruited, directed, financed and trained. In addition, Saudi Arabia was mentioned in the past as a meeting place used for purposes of recruiting terrorist operatives and transferring funds to Judea and Samaria, taking advantage of the large number of Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca to fulfill their religious duty. Sometimes more than one country is involved in handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria, for considerations of operational convenience (handlers residing in distant countries prefer to meet with the operatives that they handle in intermediary countries near Israel, such as Turkey and Jordan).
5. Hamas’s operational need to use the territory of Arab/Muslim countries as local headquarters for handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria arose after the removal of Hamas’s headquarters in Damascus, following the Syrian civil war. It received a further boost in view of Hamas’s efforts after Operation Protective Edge to encourage terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria. Turkey stands out in this regard. It is the site of Hamas’s foreign military headquarters, headed by Saleh al-Arouri, one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing in Judea and Samaria.
6. Turkey and Qatar allow overt political and propaganda activities by Hamas from their territory, due to their favorable attitude towards the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas emerged (even though this activity includes incitement to terrorism). At the same time, they turn a blind eye to the clandestine military activity taking place in their territory and they tend to deny its existence. In the ITIC’s assessment, another country, Malaysia, also turns a blind eye to Hamas’s activity that is carried out in its territory. Jordan, however, does not allow Hamas to carry out operational activity, and Hamas’s handling of terrorist networks from its territory is carried out clandestinely.
7. Three Hamas terrorist operatives who handled terrorist networks operating in Judea and Samaria that were exposed in the past year were noteworthy. Two of them were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal and the third is a former prisoner in Israel who took part in the negotiations that led to the Shalit deal. These three operatives possess extensive knowledge and close ties that aid in their activities on the ground. Here are the details:
A. Saleh al-Arouri (Turkey) – from the village of Aroura, in the Ramallah area.Member of Hamas’s political bureau and Hamas's senior terrorist operative. One of the founders of Hamas’s military wing in Judea and Samaria in the 1990s. He was detained by Israel in 1992 and sentenced to five years in prison. Since then he has been detained a number of times and served various prison sentences. On March 30, 2010, he was released from an Israeli prison as part of an agreement signed with him, after serving 18 years in prison. He was deported from Israel and moved to Jordan and Syria. When the Hamas headquarters was ousted from Damascus, he moved to Istanbul. He was appointed to Hamas’s political bureau and received the prisoners’ affairs portfolio, and was involved in the negotiations leading to the Shalit deal. He recently accompanied Khaled Mash'al and other Hamas officials on their visit to Saudi Arabia. In addition to his political-propaganda activity, Al-Arouri also serves as head of the Judea and Samaria area at Hamas headquarters abroad and is engaged in handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem, from his base in Turkey.
B. Hussam Atef Badran (Qatar) – from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. He holds a master’s degree in History from Al-Najah University in Nablus (Hamas website, August 2, 2015). He is one of those released in the Shalit deal. After his release, he went to Qatar, where he serves as Hamas’s spokesman. In addition to his position as spokesman, he also handles terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria. His name was mentioned in the interrogation of terrorist operatives detained by the Israeli security forces. Due to operational considerations (proximity to Judea and Samaria), he sometimes stays in Turkey in order to recruit and handle networks in Judea and Samaria. He often makes public statements inciting terrorism.
C. Ahmed al-Najjar (Jordan) – Hamas operative from Silwad (north of Ramallah). He was imprisoned in Israel for carrying out shooting attacks that killed six Israelis, released in the Shalit deal, deported to the Gaza Strip and moved to Jordan. From there he handles terrorist operatives in Judea and Samaria. He handled the terrorist network in Silwad, which carried out attacks against Israeli vehicles, including the attack near Shvut Rachel that killed Malachi Rosenfeld (July 2015). He also provided financing for the activity of this terrorist network, taking advantage of his family ties with residents of Silwad (Israel Security Agency website, July 19, 2015). According to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Affairs, Ahmed al-Najjar holds US citizenship (blog.amin.org, March 19, 2011).
8. A significant proportion of those terrorist operatives released in the Shalit deal and deported to the Gaza Strip thenbecame handlers of terrorist networks operating in Judea and Samaria.Some of these operatives left the Gaza Strip and settled in Arab/Muslim countries. They play an important role in handling terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria from Turkey, Jordan and Qatar, and also from the Gaza Strip. In addition, some of those released in the Shalit deal to their homes in Judea and Samaria returned to their former ways and became involved in terrorist attacks.
9. Following is an Appendix summarizing the role of the Gaza Strip and Arab/Muslim countries where Hamas terrorist networks in Judea and Samaria are handled. The information presented in the Appendix is largely from the past year and is based on the interrogation of terrorist operatives detained by the Israel Security Agency (according to the Israel Security Agency website). The Appendix also includes supplementary information from the media about the activities of Hamas’s networks in Judea and Samaria and their handling from the various countries.
For example, Izz al-Din Ziad Hassan Awad, a Hamas operative released in the Shalit deal, was involved in the shooting attack on the eve of Passover, April 24, 2014. The attack, aimed at vehicles traveling on their way to the Seder in Hebron, killed police officer Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi and injured his wife and a child who was in one of the vehicles (Israel Security Agency website, June 23, 2014).