Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it had thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
In recent months, the Shin Bet said it had arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank and more than US$170,000 aimed at funding attacks.
It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned.
The Shin Bet said the plot was orchestrated by senior Hamas official Salah Arouri, who is based in Turkey and enjoys the support of the local officials there.
The idea was to set up cells in major West Bank cities. Hamas had no immediate comment to the claim.
Hamas overtook the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Mr Abbas. It is currently negotiating in Cairo over a ceasefire to formally end the Gaza war.
A five-day ceasefire expires later today.
The month-long Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials.
Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.
The fighting was precipitated by Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers.
The Shin Bet said it uncovered the coup plot due to information gleaned from the arrests.
The three teenagers – Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel – were slain in June in the West Bank. Their killings were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in what was a likely revenge attack.
The Gaza war began on July 8 with Israeli airstrikes. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas’ underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.
Also today, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two militants suspected in the abduction and killing of the three Israeli teenagers and sealed up the home of a third.
The demolition is standard Israeli military procedure in dealing with militants suspected of major crimes.
According to the police, there were 250 police officers at the scene, along with dozens of Israeli soldiers.
Minor clashes were reported during the demolition, with Palestinian youths hurling rocks and stones at armoured Israeli vehicles.