Hamas is training West Bank Palestinian students in Malaysia to conduct operations as part of the organization’s military wing, the Shin Bet security service says. The students are meant to operate undercover upon their return to the West Bank.
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While Israel last year claimed that Hamas was training its operatives in paragliding techniques in Malaysia, a claim that Malaysia denied, this is the first time the Shin Bet has presented detailed allegations about Hamas activities in that country.
The claims appear in an indictment filed March 18 in the Judea Military Court against a Hebron resident, Waseem Qawasmeh, 24, charged with belonging to and being active in a banned organization, making contact with the enemy and receiving money from an enemy. Qawasmeh was arrested February 13 at the Allenby Bridge upon returning from Malaysia via Jordan.
According to the Shin Bet, Hamas men in Malaysia actively recruit for military training Palestinians who are studying there. Recruiters also put the students through ideological preparation that includes joining the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian charities that operate there.
After their training, the operatives are sent to set up military networks in the West Bank, act as messengers between the territories and foreign countries, and carry out secret transfers of funds to meet Hamas’ needs.
Last summer, during Operation Protective Edge, Israel published details from the interrogation of a member of Hamas’ tunnel forces in the Gaza Strip. In the announcement it claimed the man had trained in Malaysia to paraglide into Israeli territory in order to carry out murders and kidnappings.
Malaysian ministry issues denial
The Malaysian foreign minister issued a denial at the time, but Israel insisted the training had occurred. Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and has often expressed support for Hamas; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Gaza in January 2013.
According to the Shin Bet, Qawasmeh began his relationship with Hamas through its student association at Islamic University in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. For two years he worked for a Hamas charity association and in December 2013 he was recruited by Mustafa Najam, a senior Hamas activist in that country, to join the Muslim Brotherhood. Qawasmeh took part in a swearing-in ceremony attend by Ma’an Hatib and Radwan al-Atrash, senior Hamas officials residing in Malaysia.
The Shin Bet describes Hatib as “responsible in Malaysia for the Hamas foreign desk.” Atrash is “a senior figure in the Shura council,” in which Hamas clergymen in Malaysia are active.
The indictment against Qawasmeh states that he underwent a security check and was then trained for clandestine operations by Hamas men in Malaysia. He was also sent for a week to Turkey to train with Hamas there.
Among the things he was taught was how to respond to the questioning he would undergo at the Allenby Bridge and how to act when jailed and during the Shin Bet interrogation. Given his arrest and confessions, it doesn’t seem as if the instruction was particularly effective.