Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the October deal to secure the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit are plotting to abduct Israeli civilians or soldiers and smuggle them out of the West Bank, the recently retired head of the army's Central Command told Haaretz.
"We are identifying an increase in plots to carry out kidnap operations," said Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, who concluded his term last week. "Even when Hamas maintains relative quiet in relations with Israel on the Gaza Strip, there is an understanding that terror strikes can be initiated in Judea and Samaria. In the past there were efforts to murder Israelis and then bargain about the return of their bodies, due to the assessment that a live hostage would be hard to hold in the West Bank. Now there are thoughts about the possibility of kidnapping an Israeli and smuggling him outside the borders of the West Bank. From what we understand, the moment such authorization is given, operatives on the West Bank won't need to wait for specific orders."
Mizrahi said the plans to abduct Israelis were not limited to "one or two terror cells."
Over the past two months, the Israel Defense Forces has detained four Palestinians released in the Shalit deal on suspicion that they have resumed terrorist activity.
When IDF forces killed Popular Resistance Committee head Zahir Kaisi earlier this month, he was with one of the Palestinians released in the Shalit deal, who also died in the Gaza air strike. He was released to the Gaza Strip and not authorized to go home to the West Bank.
Mizrahi said he recently visited several settlements to warn residents against undiscriminating hitchhiking, and similar warnings have been issued to soldiers.
He expressed concern that terror cells have many opportunities to kidnap Israelis.
"Young women in Gush Etzion wait at hitchhike stops at midnight," said Mizrahi. "That's dangerous."
Although Hamas already has control of Gaza, it is also trying to revive its terror infrastructure in the West Bank, Mizrahi said.
In the past two months, the IDF has confiscated NIS 2.7 million smuggled into the West Bank by Hamas-deployed couriers from overseas, Mizrahi said, adding the money was earmarked to support terror cells in various West Bank cities.
"Hamas is trying to build itself up," the officer said.
He said the Shalit deal boosted Hamas, which some Palestinians say might just pull off a victory in the next round of elections in the West Bank.
"Top figures in the Palestinian Authority's security forces have told me that in every West Bank home there is at least one family member who belongs to Hamas," Mizrahi said.
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