Security Forces Sweep Hamas Cells in Yehudah and Shomron

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) -

Israeli forces have arrested dozens of Hamas members suspected of planning attacks and trying to build up the Palestinian terrorist group in Yehudah and Shomron, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said on Wednesday.

Around 40 Hamas members, some of them senior, were detained around the city of Shechem in recent months on suspicion of “working to renew Hamas activity in Shomron, including through preparing the groundwork for terrorist activity,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.

It said the detainees had received instruction from Hussan Badran, a Hamas spokesman in Qatar, as well as funds that were “laundered” through a gold dealer active in Jordan.

Hamas said on Wednesday it was committed to holy war against Israel. “But at the same time we deny any [such] connection with Hussam Badran,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Shin Bet said the detainees would be indicted in an Israeli military court soon. There was no information on how the Hamas men might plead in court.

Briefing Israeli lawmakers on Tuesday, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen gave a mixed assessment of Hamas.

Since last year’s Gaza war, which devastated much of the impoverished Palestinian enclave, Hamas has been in “strategic distress” and “currently has no willingness to take action against Israel” even though it is arming itself for the next conflict, Cohen said, according to a Knesset spokesman.

Also on Wednesday, Israel said that it was revoking permits for hundreds of Palestinian Arabs living in Yehuda and Shomron to visit relatives in Gaza after a series of terror attacks on Israelis — several of them fatal, Arutz Sheva reported.

The announcement by COGAT, the agency that manages civilian affairs between Israel, the PA, and Gaza was the latest reversal of measures easing movement for Palestinians during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Earlier Tuesday, COGAT announced it would tighten access of Palestinian Arabs to Har HaBayis. Men under 50 and women between 16-30 would only be admitted if they held permits.

The current wave of shootings and stabbings is taking a political toll as well. Jewish Home party leaders Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel warned Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday that there must be an effective response, or there would be political ramifications, though they did not spell out what those would be.

In an angry letter to Netanyahu on Tuesday, Ariel said that failure to respond would encourage more terrorism.

“The terrorist organizations must receive the message that the blood of Israeli citizens, especially residents of Yehudah and Shomron, is not worthless,” Ariel wrote.

Jewish Home also protested the opposition parties’ refusal to pair off with coalition MKs who left the Knesset to attend the levayah of terror victim Malachi Rosenberg, Hy”d, on Wednesday.