Hamas’ Shameful Conscription of the Media
Israel on Wednesday formally designated Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ main media outlet, as a terrorist organization.
Israeli authorities revealed last month that Hamas recruiters posing as journalists conveyed secret messages to West Bank operatives via the channel. According to a recent report from the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Palestinian terrorists often rely on media officials to communicate with operatives and avoid being targeted by Israel during conflicts.
Some of these terrorist-media personalities include an Al-Aqsa TV broadcaster and a correspondent for Hamas’ al-Risalah media outlet who frequently report on the “return marches” that Hamas orchestrates on the Gaza border. Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations threatened last month to ramp up violence on the border to force more Israeli concessions.
In recent years, Hamas operatives have recruited dozens of Palestinians from the West Bank and Jerusalem to conduct terrorist attacks against Israel. Some of the detained recruits revealed that Hamas operatives use Facebook to contact potential recruits and then use TV broadcasts to convey covert messages.
For example, Israeli security authorities learned during a December interrogation that Gaza-based Hamas terrorists asked Ahmed Abu Aysha from Nablus to recruit other Palestinians and facilitate a stabbing attack against Israeli civilians. Aysha received signals from his terrorist handlers via Al-Aqsa TV broadcasts. In another case, Gaza-based terrorist Muhammad al-‘Arabid, who previously posed as a journalist, recruited a young Palestinian from the West Bank to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel. The recruit was arrested several days before he expected to obtain an explosive belt.
When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2006, Al-Aqsa TV became the terrorist group’s primary media outlet. In November, after Hamas fired more than 460 missiles and rockets at communities in southern Israel, Israel’s military bombed the Hamas TV channel and affiliated radio stations after they were deemed legitimate targets.
Despite the bombing, Hamas funneled money to the station and continued to broadcast radical propaganda from a different location. At the time, Israel acknowledged that Hamas media outlets help Hamas communicate with its fighters.
Al-Aqsa — like other Palestinian institutions — offers programs specifically geared to recruiting children to embrace terrorism and become suicide bombers to attack innocent Israeli civilians.
Last month, Palestinian security forces reportedly detained a Hamas-affiliated cell in Nablus that received directions from Gaza and planned to carry out several terrorist bombings in Israel.
Despite Israel’s campaign against Gaza-based operatives and media outlets, Hamas continues to recruit West Bank Palestinians to destabilize the Palestinian Authority and attack Israeli civilians. Banning its propaganda and communication outlet was an important step to help correct that.
Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.