Palestinian security source admits PA’s concerned about Hezbollah, financed by Iran, will make inroads with Palestinian youth that they can’t handle, complicating the area’s balance into a chaotic situation.
By YASSER OKBI & MAARIV HASHAVUA
Hezbollah has been working intensively to enlist former operatives from Fatah’s armed wing, the Al Aksa Brigades, in order to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and inside Israel, a Palestinian security source was quoted as saying on Sunday.
Saudi daily Okaz quoted the source as saying that “among those Hezbollah members involved in the operation is Kayis Ubayid, who was behind the kidnapping of Col. (res.) Elahanan Tenebaum in 2000.” Tenenbaum was released to Israel from Hezbollah captivity as part of a prisoner exchange in 2004.
The source added that Palestinian security forces believe that recent shootings and the use of explosive devices such as that thrown at an IDF position near Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem, earlier this month, are part of the Lebanese Shi’ite group’s efforts.
The Palestinian source claimed that Israel is well-aware of the Hezbollah activities. He added that some of those Palestinian operatives approached by Hezbollah reported the Shi’ite group’s efforts to Palestinian Authority officials. “We estimate that there are a number of youths who were drawn into joining Hezbollah’s ranks and are now operating in the West Bank, because of economic hardship or the deterioration in the security situation,” the source said.
“We don’t know how many people there are, but there is no doubt that the phenomenon is gaining momentum among former Al Aksa Brigade youths that have been approached by Hezbollah to work in exchange for economic support. The matter is a personal choice of these youth, who have chosen to take action against Israeli targets.”
The Palestinian security source expressed concern that, for the first time, their was a willingness among Palestinian youth to join Hezbollah. “These attempts have not gone unnoticed by us in recent years, but in recent months we feel that the phenomenon has grown, with interest expressed by the youths,” he said. “The number of youths involved can be counted on two hands, but nonetheless this is a dangerous development, which if it manages to carry out just one terror attack – it will change the situation completely. We fear that the issue will become a phenomenon, with more and more youths being seduced into getting money from Hezbollah. When they number in the dozens, handling them will become much more complicated.”
The source said that the matter was a security challenge for the Palestinian Authority, which is also currently acting against Hamas’s efforts to revive its military wing, the Kassam Brigades, in the West Bank.
The source said that in the mid-2000s, Hezbollah had tried to enlist West Bank youth, offering salaries which reached tens-of-thousands of dollars per month. “In the years 2004-2005, the Al Aksa Brigades claimed responsibility for terror attacks which were all funded by Hezbollah, whose main enlister was Kayis Ubayid.
This would not mark the first time that Palestinian security forces have warned of Hezbollah attempts to enlist fighters in the West Bank. The move could potentially be tied to Hezbollah’s patron – Iran.
In January, Iranian Defense Minister Hussein Dehghan warned that Israel “will not escape revenge” for its alleged assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ General Muhammad Allah-Dadi and of Jihad Mughniyeh in an air strike in the Syrian Golan Heights attributed in foreign reports to the IAF.
Dehghan said at the time that Iran would continue to arm the West Bank and Hezbollah. “Tehran will continue to strengthen the axis of resistance in order to deal with the Zionist entity.”