Israel and Egypt have Hamas pinned inside Gaza after destroying hundreds of tunnels leading out of the Palestinian enclave, but the terrorist group is coordinating its efforts in the West Bank with logistical help from a command center more than 500 miles away in Turkey, according to Palestinian Authority officials.
The PA and the Jewish State are mutually convenient bedfellows in their opposition to Hamas, which has conducted a campaign of terror against Israel and seeks to destabilize the West Bank. While the PA officially remains Hamas' so-called "governing partner" in the Palestinian territories, new accusations that Hamas' efforts are guided by its Turkey-based commander Salah al-Aruri have exposed the growing and violent rift between the two groups.
Now, the PA has gone on record as accusing al-Aruri of planning multiple attacks that have been foiled recently by Israel, resulting in the arrest of dozens of Hamas operatives in the West Bank. Those arrests, likely coordinated with PA security services who themselves allegedly foiled a planned coup by Hamas in the West Bank this summer, may have included the cell which, it was revealed on Thursday, had been planning to assassinate Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in August in an RPG missile attack.
“The officials accused Turkey as well as Qatar — the current home of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal — of enabling Hamas to operate freely within their territories to carry out attacks against Israel and undermine the Palestinian Authority,” Friday’s Times of Israel revealed. “The officials added that several Hamas operatives connected to the recently uncovered network were also being held in PA detention facilities.”
Despite the recent serious escalation in lethal incidents in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and further afield in Israel, including this week’s brutal murder of four rabbis and a policeman at a synagogue in the capital, Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces still have shared mutual interests in combating radical Islamist terrorists groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others.
“There is regular cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian police which is continuing despite the terrorist attacks that have taken place,” Mickey Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israeli Police, told FoxNews.com.
It was Al-Aruri who on Aug. 20, speaking at the World Conference of Islamic Sages in Turkey, admitted that Hamas had instigated the “heroic action carried out by the al-Qassam Brigades [the military wing of Hamas], which captured three settlers in Hebron.” The three teenage boys were kidnapped and brutally murdered by Hamas operatives, an incident that triggered the spiral of violence - including the retaliatory murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish settlers - that led to the vicious 50-day war in Gaza this summer.
Hamas appears to have been given a free hand to operate out of Turkey and Qatar, both of whom are close U.S. allies, and neither of whom deem Hamas a terrorist organization. Regional critics say the Obama administration has allowed its efforts to broker peace in the Middle East to be consistently undermined by its own Turkish and Qatari allies, who provide safe haven for Hamas leaders and funding for terrorists bent on undermining a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
Talking to the Al Monitor website in August, a Turkish diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that Turkey’s support for Hamas is basically because the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed diplomatically some time ago to influence its neighbors in the region, so has decided to find other ways in which to wield power.
“Trying to be a major actor in the Middle East and having felt betrayed multiple times, the Erdogan administration decided we have to be Middle Eastern, which means non-state entities should be considered as serious actors, partners, enemies, and allies.” Al Monitor’s Turkish correspondent, Pinar Tremblay, added, “Turkey’s support for Hamas - along with Qatar - hampers Israel’s ability to isolate Hamas. The Turkish government has been rather frank and “proud” of its engagement with the organization, despite all [the] financial and political repercussions.”
The policy of siding with Hamas, experts suggest, may also be a way for both Turkey and Qatar to continue their campaign against Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has clamped down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood, parent organization of Hamas, declaring the Brotherhood an illegal organization and arresting countless of its members.
El-Sisi has taken firm action against Hamas in Gaza, closing the key Rafah crossing and establishing a buffer zone on Egypt’s northern Sinai border with Gaza in an attempt to stop infiltration into Egypt by Hamas terrorists – backed by Turkey and Qatar - and the trafficking of weapons, missiles, and Islamic extremists in both directions.