The Middle East News Line has confirmed that Hamas has been secretly training paramilitary forces in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority (PA) security sources said Hamas’ Executive Force has been training in combat and weapons skills in several areas of the West Bank.
They said the Executive Force, secretly formed in the West Bank in 2007, has selected the Judean Desert south of Bethlehem for training.
“Hamas has trained units of the EF for attacks on Fatah and the PA, and they have been equipped with weapons and radios,” a PA security source said.
These sources said PA intelligence has tracked EF units south and east of Bethlehem. They said scores of Hamas fighters were found training in remote desert areas controlled by Israel.
“The Israeli military doesn’t patrol these areas, so they are wide open for Hamas,” the source said. “Most of the training is done without live fire, but there is plenty of physical exercises as well as instructions on how to fight PA police at street demonstrations.”
Hamas was believed to be in control of most of the villages around Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank. The sources said Hamas has also been the dominant influence of 70 percent of mosques throughout the West Bank. PA security forces have arrested about 700 Hamas operatives since June 2007, about 150 of whom remain in detention. Over the last week, PA units arrested four suspected EF commanders in the Bethlehem area.
In response, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has called for a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.
Mr. Barhoum has warned against a Middle East conference in Washington in November and the prospect that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would be overthrown.