Israel's Security Chief: West Bank Situation 'Fragile,' Hamas Ready for Another Gaza Conflict

Shin Bet head informs cabinet of a rise in terror threats since Temple Mount attack, says Hamas is establishing a foothold in Lebanon under Iranian patronage

Hamas militants attend the funeral of a border security guard Nidal al-Jaafari in Rafah refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017.
Adel Hana/AP

The head of Israel's Shin Bet security service told the cabinet meeting on Sunday that the relative calm in the West Bank is "fragile."

Nadav Argaman noted that a similar situation exists in Gaza. Hamas is in strategic distress, he said, but is nevertheless militarily prepared for a renewed confrontation with Israel.

"Despite the relative quiet, the security reality in Judea and Samaria is fragile," he said, referring to the West Bank, adding that the situation includes "high sensitivity regarding events of religious nature and an ongoing threshold of terror attacks."

"There is a high level alert for attacks both from terror organizations and independent players on the ground," he said.

The military wing of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and abroad is making efforts to carry out terrorist attacks in the West Bank to undermine the relative stability there, he said, but it has been having difficulty doing so due to the steps by Israeli security forces to foil the attacks. In recent years, Argaman said, members of the Hamas military wing have tried to carry out dozens of such attacks.

Argaman told the cabinet that, after the July 14 terror attack on Jerusalem's Temple Mount in which two policemen were killed, the Shin Bet detected a significant increase in warnings of possible terrorist attacks. In July, he said, there were triple the number of warnings as in June. "This is a by-product of the motivation to carry out severe attacks and of a significant increase in harsh rhetoric and incitement on social media calling for lone-wolf attacks," he told the cabinet members.

In recent months, the Shin Bet has foiled the acts of more than 70 local terrorist cells, he said, and since the beginning of the year, the agency has prevents about 200 substantial attacks, including suicide attacks, shootings and abductions. Over the upcoming Jewish High Holy days, an increase is also anticipated in the number of attempts by terrorist organizations and lone-wolf attackers to carry out attacks, he said.

Argaman's situation assessment also addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip. If in the West Bank he spoke of a "fragile" situation, he referred to a "deceptive calm" in Gaza. But he noted that the years since Israel's 2014 war with Hamas and its allies in Gaza have been the quietest period in Gaza for 30 years.

Hamas is facing a strategically difficult situation, he said, having trouble demonstrating diplomatic achievement and effectively addressing the difficulties facing the population of Gaza. "The economic-civilian difficulties in the strip are getting worse," Argaman said. "Rehabilitation of the strip is faltering. There is a serious crisis when it comes to infrastructure.

Unemployment is increasing. There is a crisis over [the payment of] salaries and a drop in the gross [domestic] product."

Argaman stressed that despite the distress in the civilian sector, Hamas is continuing to invest major resources in preparing for the next military confrontation with Israel, even at the expense of the well-being of the population. "Even now, the [Hamas] movement is in [a state of] readiness for a confrontation with Israel," he said, also noting that Hamas was also deepening its strategic ties with Shi'ites players, led by Iran, and through Iran, is solidifying its foothold in Lebanon.