March 14, 2013 - 12:00am

Israel's Shin Bet security service said in a statement Wednesday that Hamas Interior Minister in the Gaza Strip, Fathi Hammad, is behind invigorated efforts to stage terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank, local media outlets reported.

The Shin Bet security agency said the questioning of newly recruited Hamas operatives, who were arrested recently in the West Bank, revealed Hammad's alleged involvement in efforts to establish new militant cells in the area. He tasked recruits with planning and executing varied attacks, including firing of rockets, suicide bombings, kidnapping and killing a soldier or a civilian, and planting explosives.

"To that end, Hammad is activating his associates, Hamas members, who work on his behalf, and through the 'Defenders of Al Aqsa' group, which was set up by him," The Jerusalem Post quoted the Shin Bet statement as saying.

The new recruits received training in manufacturing improvised weapons, including rockets, and maintained contact with their handlers in Gaza via emails and cell phones. Some were arrested by security forces just days before setting their plans in motion, the Shin Bet said, adding in its statement that the militants " received concrete instructions to kidnap a soldier, take his ID and cell phone for negotiations, and then kill and bury him at a hideout."

Israel is concerned about Hamas' increasing efforts to resurrect its military infrastructure in the West Bank, an area from which the Islamic group had launched a series of attacks against Jewish settlers and inside Israel for years before wrestling control of Gaza in 2007.

The Shin Bet noted that Hammad's active involvement in plans to launch attacks from the West Bank is "a gross violation" of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement that ended eight days of major cross-border violence four months ago.

Last week, Shin Bet disclosed that it had uncovered a Hamas cell in the West Bank city of Hebron last November, which planned carrying out shooting attacks against military and civilian targets in the area.


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