On December 13, 2018, Israeli security forces killed and arrested terrorists who were involved in two terror attacks that horrified the Israeli public. In the Askar refugee camp near Nablus, they tracked down and killed Ashraf Naalwa, who murdered two Israelis in the Barkan industrial zone on October 7, 2018, and they shot Saleh Barghouti, responsible for the terror attack at the Ofra Junction on December 8, 2018, in the village of Surda near Ramallah. While Hamas was quick to announce Naalwa’s “martyrdom,” they did not claim him as coming from the ranks of the Hamas’ Qassam Brigades. However, the terrorist killed in Ramallah, Saleh Barghouti, was a son of Omar Barghouti, a famous Hamas leader in the West Bank, so the Hamas fingerprints were very obvious in the Ofra attack.
Immediately after the killing in Ofra, Hamas was quick to publish “praise” for the “heroic” attack, which caused the death of a baby when his pregnant mother, Shira Ish-Ran, suffered serious wounds. The baby was birthed in an emergency operation, but he died three days later. Another six Israelis were injured in the attack.
The fact that Hamas used the Barghouti family, who come from a Tanzim-Fatah area, in these attacks may suggest that Hamas and Tanzim are cooperating with each other. Abdullah Barghouti is a senior leader of the Hamas military wing, currently serving 67 life sentences in an Israeli prison. Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, Is known for his close relationship with Hamas. However, the Barghouti family mostly follows Fatah’s Tanzim faction. The rural area near Ramallah where the clan lives is a Tanzim stronghold, and the refugee camps near Nablus where Naalwa was hiding were also within a Tanzim-controlled zone.
On the other hand, according to Hamas sites, many Hamas military wing activists have been arrested in that area.
The question is – are the Tanzim and Hamas starting to join forces? This remains unknown.
The Enemy of My Enemy
Both factions have a common enemy – the Muqata, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, run by the older generation of PLO activists that used to operate from Tunis. Unlike the members of the Tanzim and Hamas, these men are not “locals.” During his time in Israeli jails, Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti built good relations with his Hamas fellow inmates in the prisons. However, at this stage, this is only speculation.
According to Israeli sources, there was “a lull” in the security coordination between the Palestinian security and Israel. This is a result of Ramallah’s anger over a deal between Israel and Qatar over funds to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in Gaza and tensions caused over properties purchased by Israelis in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The IDF announcement emphasized that the success of tracking down the terrorists was the result of Israel security’s special capabilities. Was this phrasing a message to the PA security forces that Israel can manage well enough on its own, without the coordination between them?
The answers to these questions remain to be seen.