Israel's Shin Bet security service has accused the Palestinian Al-Aqsa TV channel of acting on behalf of Hamas — the governing party of Gaza and considered a terrorist group in Israel — to coordinate terror attacks inside Israel, The Times of Israel reported Wednesday.
According to the service's statement, the TV channel used clandestine messages, such as reciting quotes from the Quran or even simply putting down a cup on a table, as signals for Hamas recruits. Shin Bet attributes its conclusions to information gathered from such recruits arrested in Israel before they were able to carry out planned attacks.
Shin Bet says Hamas agents from the Gaza Strip have been reaching out to Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem through social media (mostly Facebook) since 2017.
Sometimes, the signals were more subtle, as in a case in which an anchor began his news block by putting a cup on a table and reciting a quote from a song.
The recruits were reportedly asked to conduct suicide bombings, film Israeli objects and even form "military cells" in Jerusalem.
The security service identified at least two news anchors who delivered the signals.
According to the statement, Tel Aviv first realized Hamas was using Al-Aqsa to deliver messages in October 2018. In retaliation, Israeli officials leveled the TV channel's headquarters, which sparked a new round of military conflict between the IDF and Hamas.
At the time, the IDF said it had demolished the Al-Aqsa TV headquarters in "response to the terror attack that the Hamas terror group is leading against Israeli citizens."
IAF fighter jets targeted the building of the Al-Aqsa TV Broadcasting Station, located in the center of Gaza City— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) 12 ноября 2018 г.
מטוסי קרב של חיל-האוויר תקפו את מבנה תחנת הטלוויזיה "אל אקצא", הנמצא בלב העיר עזה pic.twitter.com/4KwqgxOKzK
According to the Times of Israel, the IDF first shot one missile as a warning for TV channel staff. After staff evacuated the building, the IDF unleashed a barrage of missiles, destroying the structure entirely.
Nevertheless, Al-Aqsa didn't close after the attack. After a brief period of inactivity, the TV channel resumed broadcasting from another location, the report says.