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May 24, 2019 11:36 am

The Shadow War Between Israeli Intelligence and Hamas

avatar by Yoni Ben Menachem / JNS.org

Opinion

Hamas terrorists. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgThe shadow battle between Hamas and the Israeli intelligence services continues at full throttle, despite the discovery several months ago of an Israeli special forces unit operating in the Khan Yunis area that Hamas claimed was involved in special intelligence activity.

Fatah elements in the Gaza Strip say that following the recent round of hostilities Hamas is very worried that precise intelligence in the hands of the IDF led to strikes on Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets. They claim that this intelligence was provided by Palestinian agents and collaborators working in the field who passed information to Israel.

Israel is managing to run agents in Gaza in spite of the heavy punishments imposed by Hamas on anyone who collaborates with Israel, which usually involve a speedy military trial and execution — an example to be seen and feared.

Hamas is now using the month of Ramadan to play on the religious sentiments of collaborators in Gaza. On May 17, Hamas issued a call to all collaborators to repent and return to the bosom of the Palestinian people.

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Apparently, what is bothering Hamas is the sophisticated method used by Israeli intelligence to recruit agents and collaborators in the Gaza Strip “without leaving any fingerprints,”  and without them even knowing they are working for the State of Israel.

Hamas website Al-Risalah published an article on May 19, written by Rami Abu Zubaydah, titled: “Be on the alert for recruitment from behind the scenes!”

The article details the cunning methods used by Israeli intelligence to recruit Gaza residents, who innocently believe they are not passing on information beneficial to Israel. Those recruited transfer the information via social media networks, or through research and business sites.

According to the author, Israeli intelligence is recruiting agents through deception, and paying them for their services. These Palestinian agents believe they are working for a TV channel or news site, a research institute, a humanitarian aid organization, an international organization, or a positive Internet campaign.

These recruitment campaigns are run through a third party using slogans that are “pleasant to the ear.”

The method of “the unwitting courier” or “unwitting agent” is not new. Israeli intelligence services are not the only ones employing it. Other intelligence services also use this method, and this method is hard to uncover if well planned in advance.

Unlike the recruitment of agents and collaborators through regular means, where the recruit knows very well that he is connected to a certain intelligence body, with the “unwitting spy” technique, the recruit knows nothing and does his work in all innocence. Therefore, when unmasked, he is shocked when he learns he has been working as an enemy agent.

It is possible that Israel has increased its usage of this method for recruiting spies following a large wave of arrests carried out by Hamas’ security apparatus in Gaza, part of an attempt to locate the network of collaborators that aided the Israeli special forces unit in the Khan Yunis area.

“Human intelligence,” or “HUMINT” in intelligence terminology, is an indispensable method of gathering intelligence. It is impossible to rely only upon technological means alone to create the complete intelligence picture needed to successfully deal with the terrorist organizations in Gaza.

Israeli intelligence generally uses every breach to gather precise information on Gaza’s terrorist groups. One striking example of this was the assassination of Hamed al-Khoudary, a money courier and member of the Hamas military wing. He was killed during the recent round of hostilities while driving in his car in central Gaza City.

Sometimes the simplest intelligence information provided by an “unwitting agent” without his knowledge is what creates the success of an intelligence operation.

The author of the article on the Al-Risala website warns Gaza residents not to give out any free information on social media networks that could serve the Israeli enemy. However, according to expert security sources, it is very easy for holders of Facebook and Twitter accounts to get led astray on social media.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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