The IDF operation in Jenin was launched early Monday morning with a fierce opening assault that took the Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in the region by surprise. These terrorists had made the Jenin refugee camp with its 11,500 residents and Jenin itself with 40,000 residents into the most major terrorist nest in Judea and Samaria.
Reichman University (IDC Herzliya) Lauder School of Government Diplomacy and Strategy Institute for Counter Terrorism senior researcher Dr. Michael Barak presents an interesting thesis about the reasons why Jenin has become fertile ground for terror. He says that the Jenin, in its current structure, was built as an extension of the refugee camp which was set up in 1953. The transfer of refugees, mainly from the Carmel region, created a situation in which in contrast to other major Palestinian cities, Jenin has no significant traditional clan structure.
Barak explains, "The clan can exert pressure on activists to reduce terrorist activity, but in Jenin there is no such authority. When there is no clan authority, then the young people live via the Internet and the rampant incitement they receive from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad - especially on TikTok. This is also the reason why the Palestinian Authority has no one to turn to, to persuade the young people to stop the incitement."
The Jenin refugee camp in numbers
Since the start of 2023, over 50 shootings have been carried out by terrorists who came from the Jenin area. Since September 2022, 19 terrorists fled to the Jenin refugee camp after carrying out attacks. These events illustrate a lesson learned from what is happening in the Jenin governorate: work permits and economic welfare may reduce the growing strength of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but do not prevent it.
Today, about 13,000 Palestinians from Jenin work in Israel, and another 1,300 in nearby Jewish settlements. On Monday morning, a few hours after the opening salvo of the IDF operation, about 2,000 workers entered Israel through the nearby Jalama checkpoint, as usual but this did not diminish the fierce exchange of fire between the terrorists of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas and the IDF forces in the Jenin refugee camp.
Estimates are that hundreds of Islamic Jihad activists operate in the Jenin area, and enjoy the support of 25% of the population. Dozens of Hamas activists also operate in the exact same area, and they have support of 20% of Jenin's residents. A major reason why the Jenin refugee camp has become the epicenter of regional terrorism lies in its unemployment rate, 35% - nearly three times the average for all of Judea and Samaria in 2022 (13.1%). For the purpose of comparison, the unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip, which is in a much worse economic situation than Judea and Samaria, stands at 45.3%.
Millions of shekels income trading drug stimulant drug Captagon
Since the start of 2023, Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships have injected millions of shekels to encourage the continued intensification of terrorism in the Jenin region. In the case of Hamas, leader Saleh al-Arouri is based in Turkey and directs activities in Judea and Samaria from there, while Islamic Jihad secretary general Ziad al-Nakhala moves between Beirut, where he is under the auspices of Hezbollah, and Tehran where its patron is the supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Nakhala attaches great importance to the Jenin area, which is the center of activity of the terrorist organization under his leadership.
Although the activity of these two terrorist organizations is international, how have they managed to provide millions of shekels in six months to their operatives in Jenin? The answer begins in Syria and Lebanon. Both Hezbollah and the Assad regime rely on revenue from the export of the psychostimulant drug Captagon. Syria dominates the international Captagon market in such a significant way that in May alone, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iraq and Jordan collectively seized tens of millions of Captagon pills worth more than a billion dollars.
Consequently, Arab League members have tried to take advantage of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's return to the community of nations by guaranteeing him economic aid in exchange for stopping Captagon activities, in which his army is even cooperates with Hezbollah. However, the Syrian president says one thing and does another separate and the Captagon smuggling continues.
Estimates are that some of these drugs, along with weapons, are also smuggled into Israel through Jordan as part of cooperation that between criminal and terrorist organizations. In 2022 alone, 40 smuggling attempts were thwarted with goods totaling NIS 135 million. This indicates how much was smuggled anyway.
In April Jordanian member of parliament Imad al-Adwan was arrested while crossing the Allenby Bridge with 12 rifles and 194 pistols in his car. According to the Shin Bet, others from the West Bank were arrested after al-Adwan was detained but subsequently released and deported to Jordan. It turned out that since February al-Adwan had smuggled weapons into Israel 12 times using his diplomatic passport.
These drugs and weapons not only harm Israeli society, but also encourage terrorist activity in the West Bank, since the money from those drugs, some of it from Israel, is ultimately also used to accumulate capital for terrorist operatives in the West Bank in general and in Jenin in particular.
Only about two weeks ago, the special committee for the fight against drug and alcohol abuse, chaired by MK Boaz Bismuth, dealt with exactly this issue. Oshri Amor, commander of the Northern Borders Unit at the Ministry of National Security, said, "There is a national problem along the Jordanian border with difficult terrain and high potential for smuggling. The connection between weapons and drugs is indisputable. Smuggling starts with drugs, and moves to weapons and explosives fueled by money."
Ministry of Foreign Affairs political-strategic department chief of staff Gideon Lusti notes," Captagon is consumed a lot in our region. We are promoting cooperation with the countries of the region, this is a top priority political goal."
Hamas uses cryptocurrency market for money laundering
Another aspect of Palestinian terrorism concerns cryptocurrencies. Last April, the military wing of Hamas, the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, announced that they were stopping fundraising through Bitcoin. "The measure is aimed at concern for the peace of mind of the donors and with the aim of preventing them from any harm," the terrorists said. Harm from whom? From Israel, of course.
In February 2022, then Minister of Defense Benny Gantz signed a seizure order for cryptocurrency worth tens of thousands of shekels, from 12 digital accounts, which included about 30 digital wallets of business entities that helped the "Al-Tahhaddon" exchange company. This was the third such seizure within a year of cryptocurrencies intended to finance Hamas.
The Ministry of Defense under Yoav Gallant is tirelessly continuing in these efforts because the terrorist organizations cannot rely on charities and money changers, their traditional conduits, but need to use cryptocurrencies for money transfers.
Just last week, Gallant told a conference of Israel’s National Bureau for Counter Terror Financing (NBCTF) that a money-laundering infrastructure using cryptocurrency, belonging to Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force, was recently seized. In other words, the same seizure would have also harmed Islamic Jihad, which serves as a pro-Iranian militia.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 4, 2023.
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