Hamas’s attempts to take over control of the Temple Mount as well as spread its ideology and recruit new members in Jerusalem have been foiled by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), a senior security official announced Monday.
According to officials, Hamas has invested millions of shekels in recent years in Jerusalem charities and religious institutions, as well as in construction on the Temple Mount, in an effort to recruit Israeli Arab residents of Jerusalem into its ranks, thus bolstering its presence in the capital.
The official said that Hamas recently built a bathroom on the Temple Mount and also enlarged a library and several prayer halls in Solomon’s Stables.
“Their goal is to gain full control over the Temple Mount,” a high-ranking security officer said Monday, adding that Hamas also tried to infiltrate members into the Temple Mount as maintenance staff, in addition to its religious leaders who preach, give tours, and teach Koran classes there.
The official said Hamas had taken advantage of the Jordanian Wakf, which is responsible for the holy site. The Wakf has been suffering from financial constraints since 2000, when the Temple Mount mosques were closed to visitors.
Officials said the Hamas takeover of the Temple Mount was a “strategic” move to bolster its standing in the Palestinian territories and throughout the Muslim world.
During a year-long operation, Shin Bet arrested 11 Hamas officials based in Jerusalem, 10 of whom are Israeli identity cards holders.
Hamas’s Jerusalem headquarters were funded by Hamas headquarters in Syria, as well as a chain of charity institutions based in Saudi Arabia. In addition to Hamas’s efforts to take over the Temple Mount, the movement increased in recent years its activity in east Jerusalem, where it had set up religious institutions and used what seemed to be innocent festivities to “brainwash” Muslims with Hamas ideology.
In order to implement its goals, Hams had also set up a number of institutions of a semi-religious nature to front illegal activities. According to officials, there are no Hamas institutions currently active in Jerusalem.
The Shin Bet also focused its operations in curbing the flow of money into Hamas. A senior Hamas official, Yakub Abu Assab, was arrested for allegedly running a courier service that transferred funds from the West Bank and abroad to the Hamas headquarters in Jerusalem.
Israeli efforts to stop Hamas also included the arrests of Hamas parliamentarians, including Khaled Abu Afa, former Hamas minister for Jerusalem affairs.
All 11 detainees were due to be indicted for membership in a terror group and financing illegal terror activity.