Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian during clashes at a protest against Israeli military action in Gaza, in the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah on Aug. 15. (Photo: Reuters, Mohamad Torokman)
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Monday it had thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, though it offered few details, claiming that the plot was planned by a Hamas official who is based in Turkey and “enjoys the support of local officials there.”
In recent months, the Shin Bet said it had arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank and more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned.
The Shin Ben said the plot was orchestrated by senior Hamas official Salah Arouri, who is based in Turkey and enjoys the support of the local officials there. The idea was to set up cells in major West Bank cities. Hamas had no immediate comment to the claim.
Hamas overtook the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Abbas. It is currently negotiating in Cairo over a cease-fire to formally end the Gaza war.
A five-day cease-fire expires later Monday.
The monthlong Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.
The fighting was precipitated by Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers. The Shin Bet said it uncovered the coup plot due to information gleaned from the arrests.
The three teens – Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel – were slain in June in the West Bank. Their killings were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in what was a likely revenge attack.
The Gaza war began on July 8 with Israeli airstrikes. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.
Also on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two militants suspected in the abduction and killing of the three Israeli teenagers and sealed up the home of a third.