Struggling to maintain its strength in the West Bank amid a crackdown by Israel and Palestinian police and suffering after the assassination of one of its top leaders, Hamas has sustained another blow with news that the son of one its founders had been spying on it for Israel.
This week’s revelation that Mosab Hassan Yousef, whose father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, is in an Israeli prison, provided intelligence to Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service was the latest setback to Hamas’ image. The organisation seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah Party in 2007 and had once been viewed as all but impregnable.
The news comes amid fighting between Hamas and Fatah that has split Palestinians and hampered US efforts to restart peace negotiations with Israel, which has sealed off the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas into releasing Gilad Shalit, a captured Israeli soldier.
Hamas has been reeling from the assassination of one its leaders, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai on January 19. His killing by what authorities say was a hit team suspected of being part of Mossad has become an international espionage drama that now has a sequel in Yousef’s story.
In his soon-to-be be published memoir, “Son of Hamas,” Yousef, 32, says his code name was “Green Prince” and that he helped Shin Bet operatives kill Hamas leaders and arrest his own father, according to an interview in the Haaretz newspaper.
Shin Bet’s high-level penetration of Hamas, if true, is a “catastrophe for Hamas,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza. It is not clear whether the report will cause Hamas to target other suspected informants or if the movement’s leaders will simply regard it an isolated incident, Abusada said.
Retired Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, a former intelligence officer and adviser on Palestinian affairs in Israel’s defence ministry, said Yousef’s spying and Mabhouh’s killing make Hamas appear vulnerable.
The news of Yousef’s spying was no less painful for his family. On Friday at his father’s home in Beitunia, Yousef’s 22-year-old brother, Mohammed, expressed concern about the effect of the revelations on his father’s reputation and emphasised his family’s contributions to the Palestinian cause.
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