BREAKING: Hamas Double Agent Sabotages Israeli Assassination Attempt in Lebanon
חשיפה: סיפורו של “ג’ייקוב”, הסוכן הכפול של חמאס שהצליח להערים על השב”כ
حصري: قصة “جيكوب”، عميل حماس المزدوج الذي نجح في تضليل الشاباك
Six weeks ago, I reported here that a senior Hamas operative was seriously injured by a bomb planted in his car in southern Lebanon. I also reported, based on confidential Israeli security sources, that one of its assassination squads was responsible for the “hit.” My source told me that Israel launched the attack because it discovered that Mohammed Hamdan, the victim, was organizing a Hamas missile operation inside Lebanon which would ship advanced Iranian weaponry via that country onward to Hamas.
After the bombing, Hezbollah and Lebanese intelligence sources pieced together the Israeli operation, identifying the two Israel agents involved (who escaped the country just before the bombing) and their two local operatives who facilitated the operation. One of them escaped to Turkey, where he was apprehended by Turkish intelligence after Lebanon’s prime minister, Hariri personally appealed to Turkey’s intelligence chief. The Lebanese agent has been returned to Lebanon, where he is presumably helping authorities expose whatever elements of the plot they don’t already know.
Yossi Melman published a new expose on this case in which he revealed that the Hamas operation in Lebanon was not as claimed in the newspaper articles published after the bombing. Rather, Hamdan was seeking to create a local Hamas cell which would operate its own missile batteries inside Lebanon. In the event of an Israeli attack on Gaza, Hamas would initiate rocket attacks from Lebanon on its behalf. The intent was to create a “northern front” against Israel, and so demoralize the nation, making it realize that an attack on Gaza would mean a multi-front war, rather than a discrete localized conflict.
According to Melman, after the assassination attempt Hezbollah discovered what Hamdan’s real mission was and the militant group was furious. Hezbollah is a highly disciplined organization which prides itself on maintaining tight control on its territory and operatives. The idea that Hamas was freelancing under its very nose angered the Lebanese Islamist group, which demanded the liquidation of the operation. The IRG’s chief commander, Qassem Soleimani, even engaged in the process of peacemaking between Hamas and Hezbollah. This resulted in an assurance that Iran would make stronger attempts to support and defend Hamas and its Gaza enclave.
While I generally respect much of Melman’s security-intelligence reporting, there are a few difficulties in story: I find it almost impossible to believe that Hezbollah, which maintains one of the most adept intelligence operations in the Middle East, would not know Hamdan’s true intent. How could such an operative amass rockets and the infrastructure necessary both to store them and plan their launching in the event of an attack on Gaza, without Hezbollah knowing? Where would he get the rockets from, if not Hezbollah? How could Hamas expect that in the event of a Gaza war they’d be able to fire all these missiles from Lebanon into Israel without Hezbollah taking notice? Did they think the Lebanese militant group would react supportively after being deceived? And that Hezbollah too would join in an attack on Israel that would create a second front and relieve pressure on Gaza? That seems far-fetched in the extreme.
My Israeli security source has added an important new dimension to Melman’s report: he tells me that Hamas was running a double agent who purported to work for Shabak. His code name was Jacob. He’d been recruited by the Israelis and worked for them for five years while he was a mid-level operative in Hamas’ military wing. When Jacob learned that the Israelis were asking questions and seeking information about Hamdan, he warned Hamas that he should be vigilant in protecting himself. This was one of the reasons that Hamdan didn’t enter the car to start the engine, but rather started it through the driver-side window. That’s what saved his life. As it is, the 1-pound explosive charge severely injured his leg and doctors had to amputate his foot.
My source further reveals that Jacob was given a cover story about Hamdan’s mission to tell Israeli intelligence. That’s how the Israelis were fooled into believing that the operation involved shipping missiles to Gaza via Lebanon. In this way, Hamas hoped to put the Israelis off the trail and have them monitoring ship traffic in the eastern Mediterranean seeking the weapons shipments, instead of focusing on the real mission to amass a rocket arsenal in Lebanon itself.
As for Hezbollah, Hamas believed that it would determine immediately that this story was a ruse since it would know there were no such missile shipments going through Lebanon to Gaza. It would attribute the cover story to Israeli disinformation. So the Gaza group expected Hezbollah too would be diverted by the false story it concocted.
In Melman’s report, he notes that Mossad chief, Yossi Cohen, has made a point of stepping up assassination operations against Palestinian targets. That’s how Omar Zayed was murdered in the Palestinian embassy in Sofia several years ago. It’s also how a Hamas drone-designer Mohammed al-Zoari was murdered in Tunis last year. However, in this case not only did the assassination fail, but Israeli intelligence was fooled into believing one of its Hamas spies was a trustworthy asset, when he was serving Hamas’ interests. That’s an intelligence failure.
Compounded by an even more fundamental strategic failure: assassinations in general serve little purpose in debilitating Palestinian or Lebanese militant groups’ leadership capabilities. You kill a leader and ten are ready to take his place. At least a few of those ten are actually more capable and lethal than the man whose place they take. This failure of vision isn’t surprising since it’s part of a larger failure of vision in the entire Israeli system. A failure to understand the circumstances in which the country finds itself in this region. A refusal to adapt itself to its environment. A cocksure belief that it can impose its will by force on hundreds of millions of its Arab-Muslim neighbors and their respective nations.