Hamas recruiter tells CBS News that Israel’s actions in Gaza are fueling a West Bank recruiting boom

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Jenin, West Bank — After more than four months of war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and despite mounting international pressure to limit the devastating impact on Palestinian civilians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s goal remains the same — to destroy Hamas.

But in the other Palestinian territory, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the seemingly endless war in Gaza is having exactly the opposite effect: It is fuelling Palestinian rage, and that rage is finding a receptive home in thousands of young Palestinians who are increasingly disenchanted, and increasingly defiant.

There’s been mounting anecdotal evidence that the steadily rising death toll and grim humanitarian conditions in Gaza is eroding support for Hamas in the decimated enclave. But in the West Bank, the number of people who tell pollsters they support the U.S.- and Israeli-designated terror organization has soared from 12% to 42% since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. 

Fertile ground for an unrepentant Hamas recruiter

A masked Hamas commander who agreed to speak with CBS News at an undisclosed location in the West Bank was proud to confirm that he’s a wanted man. Calling himself Abu Abed, he said he joined Hamas nine years ago, when he was just 16. Almost half of his time since then was spent in an Israeli jail, but now he works as a recruiter for Hamas.

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CBS News correspondent Debora Patta interviews a Hamas recruiter who identified himself as Abu Abed, in Jenin, Israeli-occupied West Bank, in mid-February 2024.

CBS News


We asked him if his job had become easier, with more recruits signing on in the West Bank since Hamas launched its brutal terror attack.

“For sure,” he said, grinning. “All the Palestinian people are standing by Hamas.”

The world recoiled in horror at the savagery of the Oct. 7 attack, when women, children and the elderly were slaughtered in their homes and taken hostage, but Abu Abed described it chillingly as a legitimate act of resistance.

“We see death every single day,” he said. “Israel lost, what, 1,000 or 2,000 people killed? That’s nothing.”

He parroted Hamas’ lies that no civilians were killed in the attack, and showed no remorse either for the more than 28,000 Palestinians who’ve been killed in Gaza — by Hamas officials’ own count — as the Israeli military retaliates for his group’s actions. 


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We asked him directly if there was any regret for the suffering of Palestinian civilians, as Hamas surely knew Israel would respond harshly to the unprecedented attack.  

“We are not pleased with that, but this is the path of the armed struggle,” he said.

How can Israel win the war against Hamas?

Veteran Israeli hostage negotiator Gershon Baskin knows Hamas well. He told CBS News that the more Israel attacks Hamas, “the stronger Hamas will grow.”

Baskin was dubious of Netanyahu’s stated military objective, saying “there is no elimination of Hamas.”

“Israel cannot defeat Hamas militarily,” he said. “The only way you defeat an idea and an ideology is by providing a better idea and a better ideology.”

He said in his opinion, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s biggest crime was not failing to prevent the Hamas attack, but allowing Israelis to believe the status quo was in any way sustainable, noting specifically that Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation in the West Bank for almost six decades.

“He convinced the Israeli people and the world that Israel can occupy another people for 56 years and expect to have peace – or leave 2.2 million people in a territory like Gaza with 80% poverty and expect to have quiet,” he said. “You can’t have it all. You’ve got to share this place.”

Baskin said Palestinians have long grown up believing they must be ready to die for the cause of a still-non-existent state of Palestine.

“Palestinians need to learn that they can live for Palestine,” he said. “That will happen when Palestine becomes real for them… It’s about time that the United States, for example, recognizes the state of Palestine.”

Until Palestinians can see that future on the horizon, and until they have the same rights as Israelis, Baskin believes the endless loop of violence and hatred will continue.

We asked the Hamas recruiter Abu Abed, too, how he thought the decades-old conflict would finally end.

“The killing and the suffering ends when the Israelis walk out of our land,” he said. “But if they decide to stay, we shall continue to fight… and if I die, somebody else will take my place.”

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