The Palestinian Authority's security services knew nothing about the Hamas terror network in the West Bank, which Israeli media reported Monday, a senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday.
According to the official, the security services were surprised by the reports, according to which the Shin Bet security service interrogated dozens of Hamas operatives in the West Bank over the past three months. Israel suspects the operatives intended to set up a network of cells to commit attacks against Israel and to carry out a coup of the Palestinian Authority.
"If we had known about such steps, there is no doubt the PA's security services would have made the arrests, taken immediate steps and would not have waited for Israel," the official said.
According to the official, security services are currently collecting information and trying to assess the reliability of Israel's claims. "We can't take reports in Israel as an undisputed fact," he said, adding that though the plans of a Hamas coup may be exaggerated, "we are also aware that the 'dream' of taking over the West Bank has been going through the minds of Hamas leaders as far back as 2007."
On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the Palestinian security services to look into the reports, fearing internal repercussions.
"We are going through a sensitive period as the Palestinian people are faced with aggression in the Gaza Strip, and the new information – in light of the new unity government – could have dangerous implications for the unity of the Palestinian people and the future of the reconciliation process as a whole," Abbas said, according to the official Palestinian news agency.
On the Palestinian street, the news – and especially its timing - has been met with suspicion, with some seeing the reports as nothing more than an
Israeli attempt to foil Palestinian reconciliation and unity.