Has Israel been helping supply weapons to Hamas?

The idea that Israel could be involved in supplying weapons to Hamas might sound like a preposterous conspiracy theory, but let’s look at some connections — the theory might not be as wild as it sounds.

In undisputed reports, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh has been described as the top Hamas commander responsible for coordinating the flow of arms into Gaza. He is said to have established a smuggling route through Sudan — a route upon which a convoy of weapons was intercepted and destroyed in an Israeli drone attack just over a year ago.

From accounts of Mabhouh’s killing we know that he bought his ticket to Dubai just two days before traveling there and within just a few hours of his departure from Syria, an assassination team was en route to the same destination. Nineteen hours before the assassination, fifteen operatives left on flights for Dubai, departing from France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The Times reported that Mabhouh was “tracked from the moment he boarded Emirates flight EK 912 at Damascus at 10.05 on January 19.”

I said “an assassination team” but from hereon I’ll refer to them as the Mossad operatives. Until one of them is arrested and the Israeli government starts negotiating for his or her release, we won’t know with absolute certainty that this was a Mossad operation, but I’ll go with the Dubai police chief and say that we can be 99% sure.

The British and Irish governments would not haul in the Israeli ambassadors in London and Dublin to demand an explanation for the theft of their citizens’ passports simply on the basis of a rumor. Indeed, if Israel had been set up by one of its enemies, as some Israeli leaders have suggested, then Israel too would be launching an investigation into the breach of its own passport records. As well as being concerned about a serious security breach, Israeli would have every reason to want to pacify the concerns of those citizens who now fear that they are being placed at risk by their own government — Israelis such as Anshel Pfeffer, who writes:

Enough cases in the past have come to light in which the identities of Jews, most of whom were born outside of Israel, were used by Israeli secret agents. It is hard not to feel that there has been and still is a blatant disregard for the safety and privacy of those whose identities were used… [H]ow can Israel claim to be a democracy fighting terror and dictatorships, and continue to promote aliyah from Western countries, when this is the way it supposedly treats its citizens?

Far from allaying such anxieties, Israeli officials have thus far seemed much more interested in gloating over an operational success. “Mossad knows how to get the job done,” said one minister, while the Israeli embassy in London, though claiming ignorance about the assassination, saw fit to brag on Twitter about the “hit on #Dubai target”.

So let’s return to the sequence of events. There is compelling evidence that the Mossad operatives who killed Mabhouh had plenty of lead time. Indeed, there’s reason to suppose that rather than this being a strike provided by an opportunity, it was a carefully laid trap that the Hamas commander walked straight into.

We know that he left Damascus confident enough for his security detail to face an acceptable delay. This was no blind date. Yet the information released by Dubai suggests that the only people he met once he got there were his killers. Did he miss his contact or did his contact turn out to have deceived him?

It is now reported that Israel provided British intelligence with advance notice of an “overseas operation” that would involve the use of fake British passports. A Mossad officer said Britain’s Foreign Office was also informed hours before Mabhouh’s murder.

If word was out among intelligence agencies, it would come as no surprise if Dubai was also conducting its own surveillance operation. A review of the CCTV images they released, along with the speed with which they identified the members of the Mossad team, does indeed suggest that to some degree they were able to track events as they unfolded and not merely piece together the evidence after the fact.

In some of the videos, the camera appears to be tracking its subject — a mere coincidence that the individuals walked in the same direction the camera was moving? Perhaps.

In the montage of clips put together by Gulf News‘ GNTV, there is another intriguing element. At 13 minutes 40 seconds we see one of the suspects exiting his hotel. The caption reads: “16.14 [local time, January 19] Kevin leaves the hotel and heads towards Al-Bustan Rotana.”

As “Kevin” is stepping into a taxi, a large man — he looks like an American — in jeans, pale blue t-shirt and dark blue jacket, strolls up as the next in line for a taxi. In the video his face has been digitally obscured. Why? Did he have Kevin under surveillance or might he be one of the thus far unnamed suspects?

In all of the video sequences there is only one other individual whose identity is obscured. This comes at 20 minutes 37 seconds in the montage. Kevin is speaking on a cell phone, strolling back and forth in front of the elevator doors in the lobby adjacent to Mabhouh’s room. A large individual exits the right side elevator and engages with Kevin, then exits the lobby walking in the direction of the crime scene. Throughout the sequence the individual’s image has been digitally obscured. In general appearance he looks like an over-weight middle-aged American.

We know that five credit cards issued by American banks were used in the operation. There is an American element to this story that so far remains veiled.

So, keeping in mind all of the above, how do I come to my audacious claim that Israel has been helping supply Hamas with weapons? This doesn’t have to be quite as conspiratorial a theory as it sounds.

The bombing of the Sudan convoy suggests that Mabhouh’s supply network was infiltrated some time ago and though Israel’s much-repeated goal is to stop the flow of weapons into Gaza, the weapons themselves are perhaps less of a concern than is finding the means to weaken or disable Hamas.

What better way of infiltrating the Islamist movement than through its weapons supply chain?

If the Iranian arms dealers in Dubai have been conspicuous by their absence from this story, perhaps it’s because the trap Mabhouh fell into involved Israelis posing as Iranians.

After all, the involvement of governments in illicit arms dealing for political purposes is not unheard of — one of Israel’s closest friends, Elliot Abrams, knows the routine.

Further comment: As presented by Israeli leaders the issue of Gaza is without deviation always treated as a security threat. Gaza, under Hamas’ control presents a threat to southern Israel as in recent years cities such as Sderot have come under persistent rocket attack.

How then is it conceivable that Israel would allow a single weapon to find its way into the Palestinian enclave even if there might be an intelligence payoff from being able to infiltrate and monitor a weapons supply chain?

Wrong question. If Israel really wanted to effectively control the flow of weapons into Gaza it would never have imposed a blockade that resulted in the construction of thousands of smuggling tunnels under the Rafah border.

The surest way of rigorously controlling what gets into Gaza is through a stringently monitored open border. If goods could be brought in overland, there would be little economic incentive for constructing tunnels.

Rather than preventing the flow of weapons, Israel’s greater interest has been in punishing the Palestinian population in the naive hope that people living in great deprivation would turn against their political leaders.

Israel, confident in its ability to use overwhelming force to crush its opponents, has less interest in disarming the Palestinians than it does in breaking their will to fight.

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5 thoughts on “Has Israel been helping supply weapons to Hamas?

  1. Ann

    Israel, confident in its ability to use overwhelming force to crush its opponents, has less interest in disarming the Palestinians than it does in breaking their will to fight.

    And, I would hypothesize, the hafrada regime is also attempting to instrumentalize Palestinian resistance in service of its expansionist and apartheid (arguably low-intensity genocidal) goals, so that when the will to fight isn’t broken, it just prolongs the hamster-wheel that keeps the cycle of the conflict going, providing the prolonged pretextual oxygen to justify more violence and occupation — and expansion. In 2002 you may recall that a UPI piece asserted that Israel had funded Hamas “as a counterweight to the PLO”; which Robert Dreyfuss repeats here. Build ’em up, and destroy and assassinate them, a deadly game.

  2. Mike 71

    Could Israelis posing as Iranians have set up an arms sale pretext for luring Mahmoud Mabhouh to Dubai and to his death? If Hamas’ arms smuggling apparatus was as thoroughly infiltrated by Mossad, as some suggest, that is possible. That could explain the interception of overland arms transfers through Sudan. It could also be explained by drone surveillance of the Sudan smuggling route. That would require an enormous and thorough infiltration of Hamas and the setting up a faux Iranian arms dealing operation. That seems unlikely, as Mabhouh probably personally knew his Iranian contacts and knew better than to deal with unknowns. To do otherwise in arms dealing could be fatal. Others seem to think that the alleged “sloppiness” of the operation was an indication of Mossad taking advantage of a unique opportunity on rather short notice. Hamas has indicated that Mabhouh committed serious security breaches, such as booking his flight to Dubai online and then making a phone call to his family in Gaza from Damascus, indicating in which hotel he would be staying. Even use of a false identity in booking the flight and hotel reservations, would have not prevented Mossad from connecting the dots, particularly the phone call to the family, in which Mabhouh probably told them the name he would be using. It is well established that Mossad had hacked into the Lebanese, and presumably Syrian, internet and phone systems, giving them access to the phone lines and e-mail accounts of significant Hamas operatives. A consistent monitoring of those few phone lines and e-mail accounts would provide Mossad far more actionable intelligence than the “vacuum cleaner” approach used by the N.S.A. to monitor the activities of a millions of Americans.

    The forging of British, Irish and French passports, also seems an indication of short term preparation. The digitization of passports, as done in the U.S., presents only a technical obstacle to be overcome, as nations build massive databases of passport holders, other citizens and legal residents, such as under the U.S. “Real I.D. Act.” Just as “phishers” are able to “clone” credit cards of others, once they obtain account numbers and passwords/pin numbers, they will be able to breach these databases, manipulate biometric data to fit the operatives for whom the passports will be “cloned.” The C.I.A., Mossad, Russian F.S.B. and Chinese intelligence services already have this capability.

    It seems that Mossad’s objectives would focus more on stopping the importation of longer range Iranian made rockets, than the smuggling of small arms, or materials to fashion the home-made “Quassam” rockets through the Gaza tunnels, but that is now a moot issue as the Egyptians have sealed the border with their own barrier. In any event, there is a dual purpose to both seal off Gaza to arms smuggling and to use psychological warfare to undermine the authority of Hamas in Gaza. As long as Gaza is accurately perceived as a threat to Israel, and as specified in Hamas’ Charter, this will not change.

  3. AbeBird

    There is a large distance and gape between claiming that “Israel has been helping supply weapons to Hamas” and the not proven possibility that in might be that the assassinators, suspected to be Israelis, played a Iranians weapon merchants. Anyway, that kind of situation doesn’t make sense because there is close and intimate ties between Iran and Hamas and Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was attended to reach Iran in his last journey. It is too risky to picture oneself into a position that you don’t have control on. Most likely that the assassinator, whoever they might be, acted unattached to the victim and the surrounding.
    In order to stop arm flowing into Gaza Israel is conducting the best option: to force close and controlled borders around Gaza. Intelligence is only the second best used to intercept the arms all around the world before reaching Gaza. That style of closure is the best. Trying to halt arms when the borders are open is designated to be failed, but only in case that the arms seller to the Hamas is solely Israel. And that kind of situation is absurd and known as fraud. In open borders every one can sell everything to the Hamas and that’s why Israel keeping eyes on Gaza’s borders. “breaking their will to fight” is achieved by blockading arms into Gaza and make the life of Hamas leaders difficult.

    Ann ; What is your solution? Occupation is not OK, Hafrada is not OK. Fighting against the Palestinian terror is not OK. So what is your solution? Is the Islamic Palestinian apartheid against Israelis OK? Or blowing a car or a suicide bomber in the middle of a mall or bus station is not genocide?
    The notion that Israel created the Hamas is ridiculous although might flattered to Israel’s interests. Any way the Hamas was created in Gaza in 1987, from the spirit of the Egyptian “Islamic brotherhood”, in the beginning of the first intifada. They haven’t any direct link to the Israelis or to the west bank , but vise versa.
    Not the Hamas was registered in Israel in 1976 but the “Villages’ associations“, that mainly sat at WB Hebron by the lead of Jabri family and dealt with improving the economic standards of the Palestinians.
    Any case, it might be logical to offer help to the enemy in order to build mutual confidence though creativity and economic support. The fact that Israel allegedly tried to help, as you note, and the consequent of failure and betray of the Hamas show to all that Israel can’t trust the Palestinians and should promote her interest also through fighting the Hamas and other terror units.

  4. moshe

    The pixelated man at 13:40 is indeed noteworthy, but he appears much more energetic and less fat than the one at 20:47. Also different clothing, blue jeans/blue t-shirt vs white pants/light green/cream(?) top respectively.

    The second larger (more elderly?) person could have been clearly identified had their face not been pixelated. They might be a person of interest, having spoken to “Kevin” at some length. We don’t want the perps identifying him, do we? Same goes for the hotel staff (lady) who showed the victim to his room. She chatted with the suspects. I hope she is being looked after well.

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