Israeli security forces have arrested 30 Hamas activists in recent months on suspicion of establishing a headquarters in Ramallah, part of a recruiting campaign aimed at establishing student cells at West Bank universities.
The Shin Bet security service said that the suspects were working to create similar terror cells in Hebron, Bethlehem and Abu Dis, a Jerusalem suburb. Two of them allegedly participated in the October 2000 lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah.
In May, Israeli authorities said they had broken up a Hamas-funded terror cell calling itself "The Holy Warriors Brigade." Two members of the group (which may have been organized by several terrorists jailed in Israel) admitted detonating explosives near the Kiryat Arba security fence and planning to kidnap Israeli soldiers and settlers.
The effort to reconstitute Hamas in the West Bank may be aided by terrorist-tied prisoners who were among the 1,000 released from Israeli prisons last year in a deal for kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit.
Israeli defense officials say that dozens of those released for Schalit have resumed terrorist activity. More than 200 of them were deported to the Gaza Strip, with many joining Hamas' leadership, while others have been firing rockets into Israel and developing new weapons. Operatives deported to the West Bank include members of a Hebron terror cell that planted a bomb in Jerusalem and plotted the kidnapping of an IDF soldier.
On October 18, the anniversary of Schalit's release, the Hamas regime in Gaza released a video reconstructing the kidnapping. Hamas' Gaza boss, Ismail Haniyeh, hailed the operation as a "road map" for freeing prisoners in the future.
The situation is probably not going to get better anytime soon. Israel has agreed to permit the return of 18 more of the Schalit prisoners to the West Bank, and officials are concerned that corruption and financial problems could undercut Palestinian security forces' ability to monitor the released militants.
"These are the people in charge of making sure the released terrorists do not return to terror activity," an Israeli official said. "When they break the law, they cannot be trusted to halt terror attacks, so Israel must take over the job."