Abstract: In recent years, Hezbollah has used social media to recruit Israeli Arabs and West Bank-based Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. A recent innovation in terrorist tactics has given rise to “virtual entrepreneurs,” which to date have been largely associated with the Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts. Hezbollah’s virtual planners, similar to those in the Islamic State, use social media to establish contact with potential recruits before transitioning to more encrypted communications platforms, transferring funds, and issuing instructions to form cells, conduct surveillance, and carry out terrorist attacks. Online recruitment presents a low-cost option that offers plausible deniability for Hezbollah. While every virtual plot led by Hezbollah that targeted Israel has been foiled thus far, Israeli authorities spend time and resources disrupting these schemes at the expense of other more pressing threats. By digitally recruiting Palestinians to attack Israel, Hezbollah and its patron Iran are seeking to cultivate a new front against Israel amid rising regional hostilities.

In 2016, Muhammad Zaghloul, a young Palestinian from Tulkarem in the West Bank, allegedly oversaw the formation of a terrorist cell in the West Bank that planned to carry out a shooting attack targeting Israeli troops.1 After allegedly communicating with a terrorist handler online and receiving thousands of U.S. dollars, cell members bought a sub-machine gun and ammunition as part of their preparation to assassinate an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer. Israeli authorities reportedly disrupted the carefully organized plot in its final stage.2 If executed, it would have added an organized element to an otherwise unorganized Palestinian terrorist campaign plaguing Israel from 2015 to 2016, largely involving individuals with no affiliations to established terrorist groups.3 But this alleged cell was not handled by Hamas or any other Palestinian terrorist organization. This plot was allegedly the brainchild of Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese Shi`a organization and Israel’s arch nemesis.4

This article examines Hezbollah’s use of social media to recruit Israeli Arabs and West Bank-based Palestinians to attack Israeli targets. Understanding this development is important given rising tensions between Israel and Iran—Hezbollah’s main benefactor—as Iran further entrenches its presence in Syria and across the region. In response, Israel’s government has escalated its kinetic activity against Iran and its proxies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.5 According to Israeli authorities, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is carrying out a covert campaign against Israel involving Iran’s proxy militant groups, including Hezbollah.6 As part of these efforts, Hezbollah and Iran are expanding their footprint in the Syrian-controlled Golan Heights, cultivating a new base of operations against Israel in a possible future war.7 Iran has also established a land corridor from Iraq to Lebanon, facilitating the smuggling of missiles and other weapons.8 A lesser-known and more clandestine effort is Hezbollah and Iranian attempts to direct violence in the West Bank and Israel using virtual entrepreneurs.

A recent innovation in terrorist tactics gave rise to a development referred to as “virtual entrepreneurs” or “virtual plotters.” Using social media platforms and encrypted messaging services, terrorist operatives attempt to recruit and assist individuals or cells based in different countries to carry out attacks, tactics largely associated with the Islamic State’s online recruitment efforts.9 Previous research identifies two broad types of Islamic State virtual planners: operatives who engage in direct planning and those who play a more hands-off role by encouraging and facilitating attacks.10 From the end of 2015 through 2017, the Islamic State increasingly exploited communications and social media platforms—such as Telegram and Kik—to facilitate attacks worldwide.11 Despite receiving little attention from Western media outlets, Hezbollah relied on similar methods during this period to recruit distant operatives to strike its main enemy. It seems that Hezbollah concurrently arrived at a similar conclusion as the Islamic State: virtual plots are low-cost and potentially high-reward options that allow terrorist organizations to expand their reach.12

The following sections contextualize Hezbollah’s virtual operations by reviewing the group’s previous efforts to build relationships with Palestinians and Iran’s recent push to escalate violence against Israel from the West Bank. The article then briefly discusses some of Hezbollah’s online operations before focusing on key cases of Hezbollah’s virtual planners recruiting operatives in the West Bank. Similarities and differences across cases are identified to build an exploratory look at how other prominent terror groups—beyond the Islamic State—recruit, fund, and support operatives with divergent backgrounds from afar.

A History of Fomenting Terrorism in Israel and the West Bank
Hezbollah’s attempts to incite, fund, and direct acts of terrorism in Israel and the West Bank began in the mid-1990s and increased following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.13 The terrorist organization’s activities in this area can be divided into three broad categories: working with established Palestinian terrorist groups; recruiting individuals in Europe to enter and carry out activities in Israel; and recruiting individuals and groups of Israeli Arabs, Palestinians, and Lebanese.

Since the mid-1990s, Hezbollah has focused its efforts on supporting Palestinian terrorist groups to carry out acts of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories. Hezbollah established Unit 1800 to provide Palestinian organizations with military training and bomb making instructions, while helping Iran transfer significant funds to Palestinians.14 After the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Iran assigned Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s international operations commander, to bolster the capabilities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.15 A direct result of this support was the March 2002 suicide bombing at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel, which killed 30 and injured another 140, the deadliest attack against Israelis during the Second Intifada.16 The mass-casualty attack, labeled the “Passover Massacre” given that it occurred during the Jewish holiday’s Seder meal, is believed by Israeli military officials to be the product of Hamas-Hezbollah cooperation.17

From the mid-1990s to early 2000s, Hezbollah successfully recruited several individuals in Europe who entered, or attempted to enter, Israel to carry out reconnaissance or attacks. One prominent case involved Stephan Joseph Smyrek, a German convert to Islam, who traveled to Lebanon for training in 1997 before arriving in Israel later that year.18 He was arrested by Israeli authorities at Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, after a tip from German intelligence.19 During his interrogation, Israeli authorities concluded that Hezbollah had sent Smyrek to conduct a suicide-bombing attack. As with Smyrek, Israel thwarted every attack plot involving Hezbollah agents recruited in Europe throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.20

Following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000, Hezbollah ramped up its efforts to recruit Israeli Arabs. Given their freedom of mobility within Israel, Israeli Arabs were presumably viewed as particularly useful operatives for the Lebanese group, especially for intelligence operations.21 Hezbollah recruiters would also approach Israeli Arabs living or travelling abroad, including Khalid Kashkoush—a medical student living in Göttingen, Germany.a Kashkoush was arrested in July 2008 when he landed in Ben Gurion Airport.22 Hezbollah reportedly instructed him to conduct reconnaissance and identify members of the Israeli security forces.23

In the early 2000s, Hezbollah established Unit 133 to facilitate intelligence collection and attacks within Israel and against Israeli interests across the Middle East and Europe.b The Unit recruits new assets and provides security and military training.24 To fund and arm operatives in the West Bank and Israel, it has relied primarily on Lebanese drug dealers and Israeli-Arab smuggling networks, which have intimate knowledge of the Israeli-Lebanese border area.25 In April 2012, Unit 133 attempted to smuggle C-4 explosives and weapons into Israel using Israeli Arab smugglers.26 Israel’s domestic security service, Shin Bet, disrupted the smuggling network and foiled a mass-casualty attack.27 Following a series of failures, Unit 133—likely with Iran’s encouragement—increasingly shifted its focus toward online recruitment schemes.28

Rising Regional Tensions
By the end of the Second Intifada, Iran reduced its support for Hezbollah’s efforts in the West Bank and focused on strengthening ties with terrorist groups operating in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.29 But recent developments signal Iran’s growing interest in fomenting instability in the West Bank. Following Operation Protective Edge—Israel’s 2014 military offensive in Gaza—Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered Iran to arm the West Bank while the IRGC’s second-in-command threatened to help make the West Bank a “hell” for Israel.30 Tensions escalated in January 2015 after an Israeli airstrike in the Golan Heights killed a senior IRGC general and Jihad Mugniyeh—son of Imad Mughniyeh and head of Hezbollah’s operations in the Syria/Iraq theater.31 During a ceremony that month commemorating the dead operatives, Iran’s Defense Minister acknowledged that “arming the West Bank and strengthening the resistance movement and Hezbollah to fight against the murdering and occupant Zionist regime is the general and firm policy of Iran.”32 A month later, a senior IRGC commander reaffirmed Iran’s desire to enhance its presence in the West Bank in order to “contain the Zionist entity … so that it never dares to speak about a missile attack on Iran.”33 During the 2015-2016 wave of Palestinian terrorist violence, Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon promised that Iran would offer $7,000 to every family of a Palestinian who carries out an attack.c These statements signaled Iran’s willingness to invest in a new front against Israel and reinforce its deterrence posture.d

Recent developments suggest senior Iranian leaders are translating these statements into concrete action.34 In July 2019, Israeli authorities thwarted an Iranian-led network in Syria seeking to recruit Israelis and Palestinians “for the benefit of Iranian intelligence,” according to a statement from Israel’s Shin Bet.35 Iranian operatives reportedly created fake Facebook profiles to contact potential recruits before transitioning to other communications platforms.36 Since April 2019, Israel has launched a widespread operation across Israel and the West Bank to identify individuals who had been approached by Iranian handlers.37 Israel’s investigation concluded that some recruits handed information to their Syria-based handlers and expressed a desire to attack Israeli civilian and military targets.38 In April 2019, Israeli law enforcement arrested a Jordanian national accused of entering Israel to help form cells to facilitate long-term surveillance and reconnaissance at Iran’s behest.39 These examples could be considered cases of state-on-state covert espionage practices. But Iran’s increased willingness to enhance its presence in Israel and the Palestinian territories is part of a wider strategy involving Hezbollah’s ongoing efforts to recruit Palestinian terrorists online.

The table at the end of this article outlines alleged plots involving Hezbollah’s use of social media over the last few years to recruit Palestinians for attacks against Israel. By systematically compiling English-language open-source data, think tank publications, and arrest-related information concerning these plots, the authors identify key elements of Hezbollah’s modus operandi in this realm.e More details about these cases will likely emerge if and when court-issued gag orders are lifted. In addition, it is possible that Israeli authorities have not released information about other relevant Hezbollah-related plots in Israel and the West Bank. However, it should be noted Israel has had an incentive to release basic details of these plots to signal resolve to its domestic constituency and show the international community that Hezbollah remains dedicated to attacking Israeli targets using various methods.

Jawad Nasrallah
One of the alleged Hezbollah recruiters is a high-profile figure. Jawad Nasrallah, a father of four in his late 30s, is the second eldest son of Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General.40 Known as a poet, writer, and online personality in pro-Hezbollah circles, Jawad currently lives in Lebanon, is often seen in public, and has published his writings, including a collection of poems entitled Resistance Letters in which he glorifies those who have died fighting Israel.41 It should be noted that his public image online and off has contributed to doubts among Hezbollah supporters that Jawad was ever involved in West Bank plots.42 However, during Hassan Nasrallah’s only public statement about Jawad, he noted that his son is a member of one of Hezbollah’s units, without providing any specifics.43

According to Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, Jawad was intimately involved in recruiting the leader of the Tulkarem cell, Muhammad Zaghloul.44 Jawad was allegedly tasked with finding potential recruits in Israel and the West Bank via the internet, leveraging his knowledge of social media and online stardom.45 It is alleged that working together with “Fadi,” an operative from Unit 133, Jawad instructed Zaghloul to recruit others to gather intelligence and carry out terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing.46 The alleged five-man cell established by Zaghloul was eventually arrested by Shin Bet after having allegedly used part of the $5,000 USD provided by Hezbollah to purchase weapons.47

In November 2018, the U.S. Department of State designated Jawad Nasrallah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), imposing sanctions to deny him “the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks.”48 The statement characterized Jawad as a rising leader in Hezbollah, and cited his alleged recruitment of the Muhammad Zaghloul-led cell in Tulkarem as proof of his terrorist activities.49 Hezbollah supporters took to Twitter to respond to the designation, sharing the hashtags #WeAreAllTerrorists and #WeAreAllJawad.50 While signaling that the U.S. government views virtual plots in the West Bank with alarm, the listing of Jawad as a SDGT does little to reduce his operational capacity. Like Hezbollah’s other alleged virtual planners, the allegations suggest he relies on the group’s extensive monetary resources and can operate comfortably from Hezbollah-controlled territory in Lebanon.

Through mass communication networks and social media outlets, virtual planners forge personal relationships with potential attackers, alleviate concerns, and offer words of praise. For example, the Islamic State’s virtual entrepreneurs helped form a cell of people who did not otherwise know each other.f Virtual entrepreneurs can facilitate contact between individuals to build operational cells and wider terrorist networks. Hezbollah’s virtual planners appear to be focused on building relationships with individual Palestinians who are then instructed to form cells with other Palestinians—likely among trusted pre-existing social or family networks. Unsurprisingly, recruits and cell operatives were all men and mostly young, according to the open source information the authors collected. (See Table 1.) Apart from Mustafa Ali Mahmoud Basharat, age 49, each of the Palestinian ring leaders and cell members ranged in age from 18 to 32.51 Recruits hailed from areas across the West Bank, not limited to a certain region.

Hezbollah’s virtual planners engaged in a combination of direct plotting and facilitation, relying on a similar strategy to recruit Palestinians in each case. First, Hezbollah operatives used Facebook groups to establish contact with an individual. After a nascent relationship is forged, the Hezbollah operative(s) would usually communicate with the prospective recruit via email and send instructions on how to use encrypted communications platforms, including encrypted email. The next step involved using encrypted programs to issue further instructions and minimize detection. For example, Hezbollah operatives allegedly sent Muhammad Zaghloul 16 encrypted emails over several weeks, including requests for information on IDF bases and instructions on how to carry out suicide bombings.52 Not all suggestions flowed top-down, from Hezbollah to the Palestinian cell. It is alleged Zaghloul, for example, initially proposed killing a specific IDF soldier to his handler after providing the officer’s picture and personal information.53

Hezbollah handlers likely used fake names, such as “Bilal,” to remain anonymous.54 However, a series of plots from March-June 2016 were allegedly overseen by a well-known Hezbollah figure: Fa’iz Abu-Jadian.55 Abu-Jadian is allegedly a Gaza-based operative with Hezbollah’s Unit 133, which is exclusively devoted to supporting Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel.56 In each case, Hezbollah handlers instructed the Palestinian asset to recruit a small cell of a few trusted and committed individuals. After the cell was formed, members usually conducted surveillance and reconnaissance of potential targets, unless Israeli authorities arrested the suspected operatives first.57

According to the allegations in one case, Hezbollah enlisted an online recruit (Yusef Yasser Suylam) to kidnap Israelis and transfer the hostages to Lebanon.58 The remainder of the plots’ objectives involved conducting suicide bombings or shooting and bombing attacks (or both) against IDF patrols in the West Bank. It is alleged Najm’s 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 explosives devices.59

In each case, significant sums of money were promised and often transferred. Muhammad Zaghloul reportedly asked for $30,000 from Hezbollah but was promised $25,000.60 Israeli authorities were able to thwart the transfer of the full amount.61 However, the cell was allegedly still able to receive $5,000 via a foreign exchange company, which was used to purchase a sub-machine gun.62 Other Palestinian recruits received money as well.63 It is alleged Mustafa Hindi’s cell was also able to obtain rifles and engaged in target practice.64 Israel’s Shin Bet also revealed that several Israeli Arabs were offered the opportunity to join Hezbollah after communicating with Hezbollah operatives via pro-Palestinian Facebook profiles. None of the Israeli Arab names associated with these plots have been released following multiple arrests.65

Based on open-source reporting Hezbollah-directed virtual plots appear to stop after January 2017. If Hezbollah is actually reducing its online recruitment efforts, the reasons are not known. It may be the case that, after failing to secure a foothold in the West Bank, Hezbollah is focusing on other fronts—such as consolidating bases of operations and recruitment networks in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.66 The demand for Hezbollah’s virtual direction may have declined as well. Hezbollah, along with Hamas, was seeking to hijack the largely popular uprising that plagued Israel between September 2015 into the first half of 2016.67 But after the uprising waned, some Palestinians may have reduced their efforts to reach out and establish contact with Hezbollah operatives. Israel’s counterterrorism efforts might also play a role in disrupting Hezbollah’s ability to sustain contact with potential operatives. On the other hand, the move to encrypted communications platforms can go unnoticed among Israel’s security services. There may also be a decline in Israel’s willingness to release information related to these types of plots in the public domain.

A substitution effect between Hezbollah and Iran could similarly be a factor in the drop in reported plots. Hezbollah’s patron Iran appears to be playing a role in recruiting Palestinians online, evidenced by several foiled plots uncovered in 2018-2019 described at the beginning of this article.68 A few uncovered cases are insufficient to establish a trend. But these reports may signal a new effort whereby Iranian personnel are directly involved in online recruitment efforts of Palestinians to attack Israel, in light of Hezbollah’s failure to successfully execute a virtually directed operation. As regional tensions between Iran and Israel escalate, it is in Iran’s interest to cultivate another border front to challenge Israel.69 Future research could look at Iranian-directed plots in this realm, as this article primarily focuses on how a non-state armed actor, like Hezbollah, uses the internet for recruitment in other theaters.

Gabriel Weimann, a scholar of terrorists’ use of the internet, has noted that “the Internet has been a boon for Hezbollah, boosting its publicity and communication within and outside its constituency.”70 By digitally recruiting Palestinians to attack Israel, Hezbollah and (more recently) Iran may be trying to escalate their covert conflict against Israel at a time when Iran is preoccupied with securing its gains in Syria’s civil war and Hezbollah is reorganizing its forces. Most analysts agree that neither Hezbollah nor Israel is interested in a full-fledged war at this time. Each side continues to largely abide by a seemingly established set of rules.71 When one side believes the other is violating these ‘rules of the game,’ retaliation of some kind is expected.72 Hezbollah’s leadership likely believes that its covert attempts at sponsoring Palestinian militancy is a low-cost option to strike Israel, while maintaining plausible deniability, when opportunities present themselves.

The lack of a comprehensive analysis of this development is likely because all of these plots have been limited to the Israeli-Palestinian arena and disrupted by Israel’s security authorities.73 Many of the Islamic State’s virtual plots, on the other hand, have been successful and targeted several countries sending shockwaves throughout the world. However, the Hezbollah case is significant because it gives researchers and policymakers a look into how other prominent terrorist organizations use social media for nefarious purposes and planning attacks. Hezbollah’s recent covert attempts to strike Jewish and Israeli targets worldwide—in Cyprus, Thailand, Georgia, Egypt, and elsewhere—have similarly received little attention because the group failed to successfully execute the plots.74 The exception was when in 2012 suspected Hezbollah operatives detonated a bomb targeting a bus full of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, killing six, including the Bulgarian bus driver, and injuring 32 others.75 Israel can foil many covert plots. But it would only take one successful attack for Hezbollah to showcase the utility of its virtual operations.

Israel is not the only actor worried about Hezbollah’s recruitment in the West Bank.76 According to one report, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials are concerned about Hezbollah’s efforts to recruit Palestinians—including former operatives from Fatah’s militant wing, the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.77 “The number of [Palestinian] youths involved can be counted on two hands, but nonetheless this is a dangerous development,” said a Palestinian security source in 2015 speaking to the Saudi daily Okaz and reported by The Jerusalem Post, adding that “if it [Hezbollah] manages to carry out just one terror attack, it will change the situation completely. We fear that the issue [Hezbollah’s recruitment campaign] will become a phenomenon, with more and more youths being seduced into getting money from Hezbollah. When they number in the dozens, handling them will become much more complicated.”78 The following year, PA security forces arrested an armed terrorist cell affiliated with Al-Hirak Al-Shababi, an alleged Hezbollah front group that facilitates trips for Palestinian youth to meet Hezbollah and Iranian representatives abroad.79 These reports suggest Hezbollah uses a combination of online and in-person approaches to recruit Palestinians.

It is the ability to communicate from Lebanon that has benefited Hezbollah in its efforts to incite violence in Israel and the West Bank. Unlike other mediums, social media allows Hezbollah to digitally approach individual users. As with other terrorist organizations,80 the case studies presented in this article indicate that Hezbollah seeks out users who seem most interested in the organization’s cause or appear willing to carry out activities on its behalf. Social media also provides a conduit through which self-selected individuals may contact Hezbollah and offer support, as in the case of the 2016 Tulkarem cell’s leader who allegedly presented Hezbollah with a specific plan to kill an IDF officer.81 In all cases, Palestinian users have learned about Hezbollah through direct and indirect contact with the organization’s propaganda, which plays on feelings of injustice and humiliation while promising dignity, success, and notoriety.g

Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah members to capture in foreign jurisdictions, and skirts the complex logistics of smuggling operatives into Israel or the Palestinian territories.h A recent uptick in deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks (August-September 2019), one of which involved a sophisticated remotely-detonated explosive device, may give Hezbollah new opportunities to exploit heightened tensions in the West Bank.82 Even unsuccessful attacks cost Israeli authorities time and manpower, in monitoring, investigating, and intercepting such threats—a small victory for Hezbollah and Iran amid rising regional hostilities.     CTC

Michael Shkolnik is a research associate and Ph.D. candidate at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, focusing on the evolution of nascent insurgent organizations. He was recently accepted into the Canadian government’s Recruitment of Policy Leaders program and previously served as a senior advisor with the Strategic Foresight unit at the Department of Global Affairs Canada. In the past, Michael worked with counterterrorism and international security research institutes in Washington, D.C., Ottawa, and Israel. Follow @Shkolnik_M

Alexander Corbeil is a digital fellow with Concordia University’s Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, a fellow with The SecDev Foundation, and a lecturer at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has conducted inter­views with members of Hezbollah’s armed wing in Lebanon and has written extensively on Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria and terrorist use of the internet. Follow @alex_corbeil

Substantive Notes
[a] For example, Israeli-Arab Rawi Sultani was recruited by Hezbollah while attending a summer camp in Morocco and was instructed to gather information on Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with whom he attended the same gym. Sultani was later sentenced to five years and eight months in jail by the Petah Tikva District Court. For more information, see Ofra Edelman, “Israeli Arab Gets 5 Years, 8 Months for Spying on IDF Chief,” Haaretz, June 4, 2010.

[b] Unit 133 focuses specifically on Israel and Israeli interests in the Middle East and Europe. It is part of Hezbollah’s external attack-planning arm known as the Islamic Jihad Organization, or IJO. David Daoud, “Hezbollah tries to shift attention to the West Bank,” FDD’s Long War Journal, February 5, 2016.

[c] The ambassador also promised $30,000 for any family whose home is subsequently demolished by Israel. See “Iran to Pay Families of Killed Palestinians: Ambassador in Beirut,” Reuters, February 24, 2016.

[d] Arming terrorists in the West Bank would give Iran more options to impose additional costs on Israel in a possible future war between the two countries.

[e] Information on Hezbollah-related plots in Israel and the West Bank has been collected by the authors from open-source material. Sources are limited to publicly available English-language news reporting, Israeli think tank publications, and statements by Israeli government departments and agencies.

[f] One of the more prolific Islamic State operatives was Rachid Kassim. Kassim allegedly inspired terrorist attacks in France, encouraging and guiding plots in his native France from Islamic State-held territory via encrypted messaging applications. He reportedly brought together individuals who previously did not know each other in forming attack cells. For more on Kassim, see Ryan Browne and Paul Cruickshank, “US-led coalition targets top ISIS figure in Iraq strike,” CNN, February 10, 2017.

[g] For instance, it has been reported that Mustafa Kamal Hindi was recruited through the Facebook page “Palestine the Free,” which was created by Hezbollah and hosted anti-Israeli and pro-terrorist content. See Judah Ari Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells, Set up via Facebook in West Bank and Israel, Busted by Shin Bet,” Times of Israel, August 16, 2016. In addition, according to a 2005 report by the Jerusalem Media Communications Center, most Palestinians primarily watch three Arabic-language satellite stations including Hezbollah’s al-Manar. In its coverage of Palestine, al-Manar plays on similar themes of injustice, humiliation, and dignity. For more information, see Annie Marie Baylouny, “Al-Manar and Alhurra: Competing Satellite Stations and Ideologies,” George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. October 2, 2006.

[h] In October 2000, using a forged U.S. passport, Hezbollah operative Fawzi Ayub arrived in the port of Haifa via Greece. Ayub’s mission was to first improve the bomb-making capacity of local terrorist organizations and carry out multiple attacks in cooperation with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As his last act in Israel, authorities believe Ayub was meant to carry out an assassination attempt targeting the Israeli Prime Minister. Ayub was arrested by the Israel Defense Forces on June 25, 2002. He would later die fighting on behalf of Hezbollah in Syria’s civil war. For more information, see Stewart Bell, “Analysis: Hezbollah terrorist a capable and growing presence,” National Post, July 20, 2012.

[1] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm, Which Planned Terrorist Attacks,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, January 24, 2016; Yaakov Lappin, “Terror Prince: Hezbollah Leader’s Son Led Terror Cell in West Bank, says Shin Bet,” Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2016.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See, for example, Amos Harel, “How Israel Stopped a Third Palestinian Intifada,” Haaretz, April 10, 2019.

[4] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm, Which Planned Terrorist Attacks;” Lappin.

[5] Liz Sly and James McAuley, “Attacks Blamed on Israel Across Three Middle East Countries Ratchet Up Tensions,” Washington Post, August 26, 2019.

[6] Yoav Zitun, “Shin Beit: Iran tried to enlist Israelis, Palestinians for espionage, terror,” YNet News, July 24, 2019.

[7] Yaniv Kubovich, “Hezbollah Operative Said Killed by Israel Recruited Members in Syrian Golan Heights,” Haaretz, July 24, 2019; “Hezbollah Entrenching Itself in Syrian Golan, Establishing Terror Infrastructure, Israeli Army Says,” Haaretz, March 13, 2019.

[8] Seth G. Jones, “War by Proxy: Iran’s Growing Footprint in the Middle East,” Center for Strategic & International Studies, March 11, 2019; Ephraim Kam, “Is Iran About to Operate the Land Corridor to Syria?” Institute for National Security Studies Insight No. 1021, February 14, 2018.

[9] See, for example, R. Kim Cragin and Ari Weil, “‘Virtual Planners’ in the Arsenal of Islamic State External Operations,” Orbis 62:2 (2018): pp. 294-312; Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens and Seamus Hughes, “The Threat to the United States from the Islamic State’s Virtual Entrepreneurs,” CTC Sentinel 10:3 (2017); Rukmini Callimachi, “Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar,” New York Times, February 4, 2017; Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Madeleine Blackman, “ISIL’s Virtual Planners: A Critical Terrorist Innovation,” War on the Rocks, January 4, 2017; Bridget Moreng, “ISIS’ Virtual Puppeteers,” Foreign Affairs, September 21, 2016.

[10] Ibid.

[11] See, for example, Rita Katz, “Almost Any Messaging App Will Do – If You’re ISIS,” VICE, July 14, 2016; Ahmad Shehabat, Teodor Mitew and Yahia Alzoubi, “Encrypted Jihad: Investigating the Role of Telegram App in Lone Wolf Attacks in the West” Journal of Strategic Security 10:3 (2017): pp. 27-53; and Callimachi.

[12] Gartenstein-Ross and Blackman.

[13] Matthew Levitt, “Iran’s Support for Terrorism in the Middle East,” Testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and Central Asian Affairs, July 25, 2012.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ben Hartman, “Massacre Survivors Mark 10-Years at Netanya Hotel,” Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2012.

[17] Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson, “Suicide Bombers Change Mideast’s Military Balance,” Washington Post, August 18, 2002.

[18] Matthew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2013), p. 214.

[19] Ibid., p. 215.

[20] See Ibid., pp. 208-245.

[21] Ibid., p. 232.

[22] Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, p. 233.

[23] “Arrest of Hezbollah agent from Kalansua,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 6, 2008.

[24] David Daoud, “Hezbollah tries to shift attention to the West Bank,” FDD’s Long War Journal, February 5, 2016.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] See, for example, Judah Ari Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells, Set up via Facebook in West Bank and Israel, Busted by Shin Bet,” Times of Israel, August 16, 2016.

[29] Matthew Levitt, “Hezbollah’s West Bank Terror Network,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, August-September 2003.

[30] Ely Karmon, “Iran Funding Palestinian Terrorism,” Times of Israel, March 1, 2016.

[31] “Hezbollah Fighters Killed in Israeli Attack,” Al Jazeera, January 19, 2015.

[32] “Defence Minister: Iran Will Use Potential to Arm West Bank, Lebanese Hezbollah,” Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA), BBC Worldwide Monitoring, January 27, 2015. Throughout this period, numerous high-profile regime figures praised Iran’s efforts to arm Palestinians in the West Bank.

[33] “Iran Must Strengthen Foothold in West Bank: IRGC Commander,” Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, February 3, 2015.

[34] Dan Williams, “Israel Says Iran Recruited Palestinian Militants Via South Africa,” Reuters, January 3, 2018.

[35] Anna Anronheim, “Shin Beit Foils Iranian Effort to Recruit Israeli Spies Via Social Media,” Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2019.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Raz Zimmt, “Spotlight on Iran June 16-30, 2019,” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, June 2019.

[40] Zeina Karam and Bassem Mroue, “Militant or poet? US sanctions Hezbollah leader’s son,” Associated Press, November 15, 2018.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] “Mystery hangs over sanctioned son of Hezbollah leader,” National, November 13, 2018.

[44] Yoav Zitun and Rol Kais, “Nasrallah’s son directed West Bank terror cell,” YNet News, January 20, 2016.

[45] Yossi Melman, “Analysis: Why was Nasrallah’s Son Recruiting Terrorists in the West Bank?” Jerusalem Post, January 20, 2016.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] “State Department Terrorist Designations of Jawad Nasrallah, al-Mujahidin Brigades, and Hizballah,” U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, November 13, 2018.

[49] Ibid.

[50] “Mystery hangs over sanctioned son of Hezbollah leader.”

[51] Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells.”

[52] Yoav Zitun, “Coded Messages and Money Transfers: How Hezbollah Recruits West Bank Terrorists,” YNet News, January 21, 2016; “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[53] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[54] Yonah Jeremy Bob and Danielle Ziri, “Hezbollah Cells in West Bank Busted by Israeli Security Forces,” Jerusalem Post, August 16, 2016.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid.

[57] See “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm;” Bob and Ziri; and Yoav Zitun, “Shin Bet Catches Hezbollah Recruitment Cell in the West Bank,” YNet News, August 16, 2016.

[58] “Israel Arrests Palestinian Hezbollah Suspect who Planned Kidnapping, Terror Attacks,” Jerusalem Post, March 9, 2017.

[59] See “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm;” Bob and Ziri; and Zitun, “Shin Bet Catches Hezbollah Recruitment Cell in the West Bank.”

[60] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Bob and Ziri.

[64] Zitun, “Shin Bet Catches Hezbollah Recruitment Cell in the West Bank.”

[65] See Bob and Ziri.

[66] Kubovich.

[67] “Wave of Terror 2015-2019,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 8, 2019.

[68] Anronheim; Zimmt.

[69] Congressional Research Service, “Iran and Israel: Tensions Over Syria,” CRS in Focus, June 5, 2019.

[70] Gabriel Weimann, “Hezbollah Dot Com: Hezbollah’s Online Campaign” in Dan Caspi and Tal Samuel-Azran eds., New Media and Innovative Technologies (Beer-Sheva, Israel: Ben-Gurion University Press, 2008), pp. 17-38.

[71] Daniel Sobelman, “Learning to Deter: Deterrence Failure and Success in the Israel-Hezbollah Conflict, 2006-16,” International Security 41:3 (2017): pp. 151-196.

[72] “Hezbollah and Israel: A Timeline of Cross-border Attacks,” Al Jazeera, September 9, 2019; James McAuley, Liz Sly, and Ruth Eglash, “Hezbollah Retaliates Against Israel with a Missile; Israel Fires Back at Lebanon,” Washington Post, September 1, 2019.

[73] The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli research institute, has produced several short commentaries on Hezbollah’s virtual operations after Israel’s security authorities release case information. These publications have been cited throughout this article.

[74] Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.

[75] “Bulgarian bus attack is work of suicide bomber, minister stays,” CNN, July 19, 2012; Nicholas Kulish, Eric Schmitt, and Matthew Brunwasser, “Bulgaria Implicates Hezbollah in July Attack on Israelis,” New York Times, February 5, 2013.

[76] Elior Levy, “Secret Palestinian Report Warns of Danger of New Intifada,” YNet News, January 2, 2014.

[77] Yasser Okbi and Maariv Hashavua, “Report: Hezbollah enlisting West Bank youth to carry out terror attacks against Israel,” Jerusalem Post, August 30, 2015.

[78] Ibid.

[79] “Israel Bans Palestinian Youth Group as Front for Iran, Hizballah,” Radio Free Europe, July 12, 2016.

[80] Gabriel Weimann, Terrorism in Cyberspace: The Next Generation (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2015), p. 27.

[81] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[82] “Israeli Teen Badly Hurt in West Bank Stabbing Attack After Visiting Dentist,” Times of Israel, September 7, 2019; Amos Harel, “Not Just Palestinian ‘Lone Wolves’: Israeli Teen’s Murder Points to Organized West Bank Cells,” Haaretz, August 24, 2019; “Israeli Teenage Girl Killed in West Bank Bomb Attack,” BBC, August 23, 2019.

[83] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[84] Ibid.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Ibid.

[89] Ibid.; Zitun, “Coded Messages and Money Transfers.”

[90] “Hezbollah Handled a Palestinian Squad in Tulkarm.”

[91] Ibid.

[92] Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells.”

[93] Ibid.

[94] Ibid.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Ibid.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Ibid.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Ibid.

[108] Bob and Ziri.

[109] Ibid.

[110] Ibid.; Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells.”

[111] Bob and Ziri.

[112] Gross, “Hezbollah Terror Cells.”

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Ibid.

[116]  Zitun, “Shin Bet Catches Hezbollah Recruitment Cell in the West Bank.”

[117] Ibid.

[118 Ibid.

[119] Ibid.

[120] Ibid.

[121] Ibid.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Ibid.

[124] Ibid.

[125] “Israel Arrests Palestinian Hezbollah Suspect who Planned Kidnapping, Terror Attacks.”

[126] Judah Ari Gross, “Shin Bet: Hezbollah operative in West Bank planned kidnappings,” Times of Israel, March 9, 2017.

[127] “Israel Arrests Palestinian Hezbollah Suspect who Planned Kidnapping, Terror Attacks.”

[128] Ibid.

[129] Ibid.

[130] Ibid.

[131] Ibid.

[132] Ibid.

[133] Ibid.

[134] Ibid.

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