Israel embarked on a P. R. campaign to play down the extent of the threat which surfaced in one day in the discovery of Hamas tunnel near Kibbutz Sufa, and the suicide bombing of Jerusalem bus No. 12 on April 18, with 20 people injured. The police initially claimed for example that the explosion was due to a technical problem with the engine. But the two developments actually represented a sharp and serious escalation of the Palestinian wave of terror against Israel.
Neither of the operations was carried out by “lone wolves” but rather by large terror networks. The secret tunnel discovered in the Gaza border area was built by the Hamas military wing, the Izaddin al-Qassam brigades, while the suicide bombing in Jerusalem was carried out by the Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, specifically its operatives in the Bethlehem area.
Each of these terror networks poses a different challenge to Israel.
In Gaza, the Hamas political leadership is no longer in contact with the heads of its military wing. Neither the top commanders nor the regional commanders of the brigades obey any Hamas political body. They only heed three sources:
1. The Hamas military command framework headed by Mohammad Deif and Marwan Issa.
2. Iranian or Hizballah intelligence services, which maintain contacts with them and often provide funds or weapons.
3. The ISIS affiliate in the Sinai, with which the Hamas military wing maintains operational ties.
There is an equally serious problem in Judea and Samaria. Over the past few weeks, the Hamas terror networks have started to make contact with sleeper cells from Fatah’s Tanzim paramilitary force that have the knowledge, ability, means and experience for major terrorist attacks against Israel, such as the Jerusalem bus bombing.
This dormant wing of Mohammad Abbas’s Fatah has began to show signs of life and willingness to return to the path of terror.
These contacts began immediately after publication of a letter from jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti to members of the force that called on them to start coordinating their operations against Israel with Hamas. Nobody has bothered to explain how a senior terrorist jailed in a high-security Israeli prison succeeded in smuggling such a letter out.
The link between part of the Tanzim and the Hamas terror networks is no less dangerous than the tunnel discovered near Kibbutz Sufa, and it presages an escalation of terror operations in the future.
The only way to prevent a major deterioration of the security situation is to strike targets of the Izzadin al-Qassam brigades. There is no need to launch a total war against Hamas or to occupy Gaza.
But instead of responding as needed, Israel’s government and security establishment have released pictures of digging equipment that has finally succeeded in locating a single Hamas infiltration tunnel out of the many that exist, and claimed that those responsible for the Jerusalem bombing have yet to be identified. At the same time, senior officials and IDF officers continue to assert that Hamas is not seeking escalation.
Unfortunately, this can only mean a resurgence of the wave of terror.