Hamas Commander Who Allegedly Defected Provided Israel With Intel, Saudi Report Says

Al Arabiya quotes sources saying the commander gave Israel information about Hamas' planned operations and residential compounds used by senior officials. Hamas vehemently denies reports of his defection

Jack Khoury
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An anti-annexation rally staged by Hamas, Gaza Strip, June 2020.
An anti-annexation rally staged by Hamas, Gaza Strip, June 2020. Credit: AFP
Jack Khoury

A senior Hamas commander who is said to have recently defected to Israel by sea provided it with “detailed intelligence” about the Gaza-based group’s military wing, Saudi network Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday, quoting unnamed sources.

The commander has ostensibly provided Israel with information about Hamas’ planned operations, weapons storage and training sites, as well as residential compounds used by senior officials. Hamas has denied reports of the commander’s alleged defection.

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According to the Al Arabiya report, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, asked to be kept updated with the investigation. It was also reported, based on the same sources, that several officials with Hamas’ internal security service were dismissed after the commander allegedly fled to Israel, with several political and military leaders changing their place of residence.

The Israeli Mossad spy agency was behind the 72-hour escape operation, Al Arabiya also reported. Sources in Gaza see this mention of the Mossad as a proof of Hamas’ denial of the incident, as Mossad isn’t normally involved in Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip.

According to Al Arabiya, the commander led Hamas’ elite naval unit, and cooperated with Israel since 2009.

The report also claimed Hamas arrested several military wing officials, including Mohammed Omar Abu Ajwa, who was reportedly responsible for Hamas’ electronic communications array in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, and provided Israel with information about the organization’s communications methods.

Hamas issued a sweeping denial of the initial report on Friday, saying it was fake news profiting Israel.

“The Al Arabiya channel is promoting rumors that serve the aims of the occupation in destabilizing the home front in Gaza,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said.

Hamas is traditionally allied with Iran, putting it at odds with Saudi Arabia, Tehran's regional rival.