Hamas establishing presence in Philippines, says Israeli official

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Hamas establishing presence in Philippines, says Israeli official

MANILA, Philippines — Israel has confirmed that the recent capture of a scientist from Hamas is part of a larger trend of the group’s effort to establish its presence in other regions including the Philippines.

According to Ned Bashard, the deputy head of the counterterrorism department of the strategic affairs division of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hamas has been trying to get better warheads and improve its weapons development capability to harm Israel even more.

“It’s a trend. We’ve heard from the news that a scientist from Hamas was killed in Malaysia. Hamas has been constantly trying to get better warheads for more distance to harm Israel even more,” Bashard said during an interview with a handful of reporters in Manila.

Philstar.com is still verifying this information with local authorities.

Hamas, which according to Bashard currently has over 10,000 rockets and threatens half of Israel’s population, is designated by the US and the Jewish state as a terrorist organization.

In January this year, an Iraqi citizen suspected of having links to the Islamic militant group was arrested in Angeles City, Pampanga.

Taha Mohamed Al-Jabouri, 64, reportedly served as a consultant for Hamas and was described by the Iraqi Embassy as a chemist with knowledge on explosives and close ties to extremist movements in the Middle East, according to the Philippine National Police.

Jabouri arrived in the Philippines in August last year just as the Philippines was in the middle of the hosting of the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian nations which culminated in a summit of leaders that included US President Donald Trump.

It was also during that time that Filipino security officers were busy fighting Islamic State-inspired militants in Marawi City in an effort to transform the capital of Lanao del Sur province into the capital of the group's province in Southeast Asia. 

Bashard also warned that non-state actors such as the Islamic State and other militant groups are in possession of chemical weapons or at least have the capability to produce them.

He said that the international community should be ready to face this threat and urged an “instrument” that could help it combat this problem. He added that the best solution would be a United Nations-imposed framework which would carry significant “tools” to be enforced.

Companies which own social media networks should also be involved in preventing terrorist organizations from using their platforms as a recruitment avenue, the ministry official said.

Security agencies should also ensure that they were constantly monitoring the internet using various methods to ensure that terror groups were not using it to achieve their objectives, Bashard said.

When asked if Israel is open to forging agreements with the Philippines to improve its cybersecurity framework and monitoring of chemical weapons, Bashard said, “We have the intention of cooperating with everyone that is willing to cooperate and collaborate on the cause of limiting these organizations.”

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