An extensive Hamas plot to topple the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank was uncovered by Israel, according to a Jerusalem Post report. The Shin Bet, Israel's internal intelligence agency, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) revealed that Hamas personnel based in Turkey were behind the plot, headed by Hamas leader Salah al-Arouri.
The terrorist organization's objective was to conduct multiple mass casualty terrorist attacks in Israel, destabilizing the Palestinian territories and facilitating a military coup to oust PA President Mahmoud Abbas, similar to Hamas' 2007 overthrow of Fatah in Gaza.
Arouri was previously jailed in Israel for terrorism-related offenses and left the region following an agreement with Israel. From Turkey, he led Hamas's overseas wing and recruited members to set up a vast and unprecedented military infrastructure in the West Bank. Many of the recruits are highly educated and skilled, including academics with chemistry, computer programming, and engineering backgrounds. The terrorist infrastructure is centered in Ramallah, where the PA is based, with cells flowing out to 46 Palestinian cities and villages.
"The terrorists planned to undermine security and launch a third intifada. They planned disturbances on the Temple Mount to rile the Palestinian masses. They were waiting for talks between Israel and PA to collapse," a Shin Bet source told reporters in Israel.
There are 93 Hamas terrorists in Israeli custody as a result, the Shin Bet has questioned 46 thus far, and 70 suspects are expected to be indicted. Some of the arrests were made after the IDF swept through the West Bank in search of the three kidnapped boys, who were subsequently murdered.
Details of the plot are emerging as PA media accuses Israel of fabricating the murder of the three Israeli youth as an excuse to launch a war in Gaza. Yahya Rabah wrote an op-ed in the PA's Al-Hayat Al-Jadida making these conspiratorial accusations, Palestinian Media Watch reported.
"The aggression began on June 12 following a fabricated event for which no one took responsibility, that is, the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens," wrote Rabah.
However, it was Israel's interrogation of Hamas members following the initial abduction that revealed the impending plot to topple the PA in the West Bank.
It remains to be seen whether the extensive investigation and overwhelming evidence will affect PA President Mahmoud Abbas' ongoing commitment to the unity government with Hamas. He called the Israeli information "a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future" and ordered his security forces to investigate.