Hezbollah is reportedly upping its attempts to recruit Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria to carry out attacks on its behalf, according to Palestinian Authority sources.
The Lebanon-based terrorist group is reportedly attempting to revive its terrorist network in the region by reaching out to disgruntled members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist group that functions as the armed wing of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.
During the Second Intifada Hezbollah, under instruction from Iran, recruited extensively among Fatah members, training and arming them to attack Israeli targets. Those efforts reached their height in 2004-2005, with tens of thousands of dollars being doled-out to recruits as an incentive to carry out attacks.
Since then the efforts largely petered out for a number of reasons, including Israel's intensive security operations and the PA's own crackdown to prevent challenges to its authority in Judea and Samaria. However, a PA security source told the Arabic Al-Masdar site Hezbollah recruitment attempts "never really disappeared," and in recent months had escalated significantly.
With Iran emboldened by the prospect of billions of dollars of sanctions relief due to the recent deal reached with world powers over its nuclear program, it is widely acknowledged even by supporters of the deal that Tehran will use some of those funds to increase support for its numerous terrorist proxies.
But Hezbollah, Iran's most powerful proxy group, is unlikely to mount a frontal attack against Israel from Lebanon in the near future, given that it is already embroiled in several regional wars – in Syria, Iraq and to a lesser extent Yemen.
Instead, it is attempting to reestablish an operations base in Judea and Samaria, and recruit local Arabs carry out attacks against Israelis both in that region and elsewhere in Israel.
The man reportedly tasked with coordinating those operations is none other than Qais Obeid, an Israeli-Arab and grandson of former Knesset member Diyab Obeid.
Obeid is notorious for having coordinated the kidnapping of Israeli businessman Elhanan Tenenbaum in 2000, and is considered a senior Hezbollah operative. He was also one of the key players behind Hezbollah's previous recruitment drives in Judea and Samaria.
PA security forces do not know precisely how many have been recruited, the security source told Al-Masdar, although at this point it was believed to only be a handful. However that could easily change, he warned, and noted that it would pose a threat not only to Israel but to the PA itself, which already has its hands full keeping its Hamas rivals in check.
He said Israeli intelligence services are aware of the recruitment efforts, and that Hezbollah's focus was likely to include shooting attacks and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The reports come as PA and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas prepared for an historic trip to Iran, highlighting Tehran's increased attempts to expand its regional influence following the nuclear deal.