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Hamas admits naval officer spied for Israel before defecting

A Hamas junior naval officer spied for and then defected Israel [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2020

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A military spokesman for Gaza's rulers Hamas admitted that a junior naval officer spied for rival Israel before fleeing.
Gaza's Hamas rulers admitted on Friday that one of its naval commanders fled to Israel, backtracking on earlier denials.

Hamas military spokesman Abu Mohammed told The Media Line that a junior officer in the Palestinian Islamist group's naval unit provided Israel with intelligence before fleeing to the country. 

The incident was first reported on the weekend by Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya.

The outlet, along with Saudi-owned Al Hadath, have now been blocked from operating in the Gaza Strip over a report alleging that Hamas had arrested several of its members for collaborating with Israel.

Al Arabiya reported on Saturday that a Hamas officer and his brother left the besieged Gaza Strip, taking with them a laptop and surveillance equipment, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The escape was reportedly part of a three-day operation led by Israel's spy agency Mossad.

Hamas member Musa Abu Marzouk told Lebanese channel Al Mayadeen on Wednesday that "collaborators with the occupation" had been arrested but that neither them, nor the"escapee" mentioned in reports, were in high up positions, the JP also reported.

In his comments to The Media Line, Abu Mohammed said a number of Hamas security service officials were accused of spying for Israel.

But shortly after it was released, Hamas had brandished the weekend report as "fake news".

"The aim [of the report] is to harm the Palestinian people and [damage] their confidence in the resistance and liberation project," Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said at the time, in comments shared by the Jerusalem Post.

"Al Arabiya is promoting rumors that serve the occupation by destabilizing the home front in Gaza."

West Bank-based expert on Hamas Alaa al-Rimawi told The Media Line that the report by Saudi outlet Al Arabiya "came after the Saudi-Israeli rapprochement".

Rimawi said that the Saudi government was "targeting all elements close to the Muslim Brotherhood movement or [other] movements for change in the Arab world, regardless of whether they are nationalist or Islamic."

Hamas's interior ministry and Al-Arabiya both confirmed the ban on the outlet on Friday. 

Al-Arabiya
's office in Gaza was previously closed over a report concerning alleged ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

But it and Al-Hadath, which are Saudi-owned but based in Dubai, still work with freelancers in the Palestinian enclave. 

Ties between Hamas and Saudi Arabia have been cold in recent years. 

Read more: Hamas bans two Saudi-owned networks from reporting in Gaza

Hamas have tried to maintain a balanced relationship with Saudi Arabia despite the friction between their policies on a host of regional and international issues. 

Yet relations worsened since the rise to power of Mohammed bin Salman, now crown prince, who has taken unprecedented moves to normalise relations with Israel, the existence of which Hamas refuses to recognise.

Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007, relies on substantial aid from Qatar, which remains the target of a Saudi-led regional blockade.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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