Abbas takes Israel’s report of Hamas coup plot seriously
RAMALLAH - Israel's uncovering of an alleged Hamas plot to topple the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Monday spurred a sharp reaction from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas has ordered PA security forces to investigate whether there is any truth behind the Israeli allegations that Hamas's West Bank branch was planning to launch a coup and instigate a third Palestinian uprising.
In a statement released by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas indicated the report could severely impact the unity agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas in June, saying it represents “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future.”
Abbas also said that such a plot by Hamas could have “extremely dangerous” implications on the entire region.
Abbas was scheduled to meet with Hamas's political leader Khaled Mashaal in Qatar on Tuesday to discuss the terms of the Egyptian proposed ceasefire agreement to end the crisis in Gaza.
Israel’s Internal Security Agency (Shin Bet) announced on Monday that it had uncovered a wide-ranging plot by Hamas to topple the Fatah government in the West Bank through a series of terror acts against Israeli and Palestinian targets.
Over 70 militants were charged in West Bank military courts in the last few days over what potentially was the most expansive Hamas operation there since the Second Intifada over a decade ago.
Hamas dismissed the publication as an Israeli attempt to deflect attention from the ongoing talks in Cairo.
"[Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu's tricks have become transparent, it looks like he's out of ideas," Hamas spokesperson said.
The operation was reportedly masterminded by Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri who resides in Turkey and was launched in May.
As part of the Israeli investigation in the West Bank, according to Shin Bet officials, dozens of weapons and hidden storage facilities were found. Guns valued at around half a million dollars are believed to have been smuggled in from Jordan.
It appears that Israeli intelligence obtained some information on the plot from Jordan’s security agencies, which are believed to have spies inside various Palestinian factions.
The plan included a number of brutal terrorist attacks inside Israel, launched from the West Bank, that would trigger harsh responses by Israel. That, in turn, would lead – Hamas allegedly hoped – to the eruption of a widespread uprising by West Bank Palestinians, a third Intifada.
Shin Bet says its information about “military” organizing by Hamas in the West Bank is based on interrogations of recently arrested suspects.
Israeli officials said 93 militants were held in the course of the current investigation, including a man who allegedly was sent to Malaysia by Hamas to be trained to fly a para-glider.
Shin Bet believes it broke up this plot before attacks on Israeli – or Fatah – targets could be carried out. But one Shin Bet official said the information obtained proves that Hamas – and certainly its leadership outside the Palestinian territories – are deadly serious in their objective to take over the entire Palestinian movement.