Senior Hamas Member Reportedly Defects to Israel

Bassam Mahmoud Baraka is said to be highly knowledgeable about the militant group's tunnels in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian websites report.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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A Palestinian fighter from the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, August 18, 2014.
A Palestinian fighter from the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gestures inside an underground tunnel in Gaza, August 18, 2014. Credit: Reuters
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Websites affiliated with Fatah have reported over the past two days that a senior member of the Hamas military wing, Bassam Mahmoud Baraka, from Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, has fled to Israel, and is in possession of a great deal of information about Gaza tunnel operations.

According to the reports, Baraka, who is the son of a Muslim religious judge affiliated with Hamas, told his family that he was going on errands, and hasn't been seen by them since.

Baraka reportedly went to the border fence and gave himself up to soldiers who were waiting for him. According to the reports, he was carrying a laptop.

It was also reported that the Red Cross had informed his family in Gaza that he was in Israeli custody.

In their reports, the Fatah-affiliated websites lambasted Hamas for its men surrendering to Israel, noting that this was not the first time that senior members of the organization, particularly those involved in the Gaza tunnel operations, ended up in Israeli custody.

Last month it was reported that a 17-year-old Hamas member, who was captured by Israel after infiltrating the country, gave investigators information about the group's tunnel activities. The youth told his investigators about the work of Hamas in digging tunnels to allow its fighters to infiltrate Israel, about the routes of tunnels intended for use in case of emergency by members of its elite Nachba unit and information about the location of many tunnel shafts.

The investigation also revealed details about the diggers' work methods, the means they use and operational rules. For example, excavators are required to shower and change out of their work clothes before leaving the tunnels in order to hide their activities.

The Shin Bet announced the week before that a different Hamas member arrested in April had provided much information about tunnel digging in Gaza. That member was arrested after crossing the fence from Gaza while in possession of two knives. According to his charge sheet, the Hamas operative had participated in tunnel digging, laying explosives and patrolling the fence.

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