How Hizballah Uses the Internet to Promote Palestinian Terror

December 2, 2019 | Michael Shkolnik and Alexander Corbeil
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In recent years, Hizballah has focused its energy on quashing rebel forces in Syria and building up its arsenal along Israel’s northern borders while refraining from direct attacks on the Jewish state. Instead, it has used social media to recruit West Bank Palestinians and even Israeli Arabs to carry out acts of terror, providing these individuals with funding and coordination. Michael Shkolnik and Alexander Corbeil explain:

Hizballah operatives [often] use Facebook groups to establish contact with an individual. After a nascent relationship is forged, the Hizballah operatives usually communicate with the prospective recruit via email and send instructions on how to use encrypted communications platforms. . . . For example, Hizballah operatives . . . sent Muhammad Zaghloul [of the West Bank city of Tulkarm] requests for information on IDF bases and instructions on how to carry out suicide bombings. Not all suggestions flowed top-down: . . . Zaghloul initially proposed killing a specific Israeli soldier to his handler after providing the officer’s picture and personal information.

[Most] of the plots’ objectives involved conducting suicide bombings or shooting and bombing attacks, or combinations thereof, against IDF patrols in the West Bank. [One] cell, however, was plotting to carry out a suicide bombing against an Israeli bus and was disrupted after its members had already started to build explosive devices. . . . In each case, significant sums of money were promised and often transferred.

Hizballah is presumably aware that operations that depend on in-person recruitment and training are time-consuming, costly, and rarely bear fruit. Contacting, inciting, funding, and directing self-selecting operatives reduces these associated costs, avoids exposing Hizballah members to capture in foreign jurisdictions, and skirts the complex logistics of smuggling operatives into Israel or the West Bank.

A recent uptick in deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks (August-September 2019), one of which involved a sophisticated remotely detonated explosive device, may give Hizballah new opportunities to exploit heightened tensions in the West Bank. Even unsuccessful attacks cost Israeli authorities time and manpower.

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