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Malaysia – Hamas Military Cooperation

Hamas is training West Bank Palestinian students in Malaysia to conduct operations as part of the organization’s military wing, the Israel Security Agency says. The claims appear in an indictment filed March 18, 2015 in the Judea Military Court against a Hebron resident, Waseem Qawasmeh, 24, charged with belonging to, and being active in, a banned organization, making contact with the enemy and receiving money from an enemy. Qawasmeh was arrested on February 13, 2015, at the Allenby Bridge upon returning from Malaysia via Jordan. [1]

This is the third time that Israel has presented detailed allegations about Hamas military activities in Malaysia.

Malaysia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and is a strong supporter of the Palestinians with Datuk Seri Najib Razak being the first Malaysian prime minister to visit Gaza in January 2013.[2]

The Waseem Qawasmeh affair

According to the Israel Security Agency, Qawasmeh began his relationship with Hamas through its student association at the Islamic University in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. For two years he worked for a Hamas charity association and in December 2013 he was recruited by Mustafa Najam, a senior Hamas activist in that country, to join the Muslim Brotherhood. Qawasmeh took part in a swearing-in ceremony attend by Ma’an Hatib and Radwan al-Atrash, senior Hamas officials residing in Malaysia. [3]

The Israel Security Agency describes Hatib as “responsible in Malaysia for the Hamas foreign desk.” Atrash is “a senior figure in the Shura council,” in which Hamas clergymen in Malaysia are active. [4]

The indictment against Qawasmeh states that he underwent a security check and was then trained for clandestine operations by Hamas operatives in Malaysia. He was also sent  to Turkey for a week to train with Hamas operatives there. [5]

The Malaysian response

The Deputy Home Minister, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said that the allegation was aimed at creating reasons to oppose Malaysia, a strategy often used against countries that Israel did not like.

“This is ridiculous, they are creating reasons to oppose Malaysia. You know this is what they (Israel) always do, when they dislike a country, this is what they do against countries that were attacked by United States of America or Europe.”[6]

He also said that the strategy was created so that the public would believe their allegations, despite it being untrue.

“So they say something which is ridiculous, then people start to believe things that never happened, after that what we know is they send bombs and drones.  “In fact, we never had not trained military or militants here,” he said.[7]

The Hamas response

Hamas has strongly denied Israel’s accusation that they are training West Bank Palestinian students in Malaysia.

“The Israeli accusations are aimed at preventing West Bank [Palestinian] students from traveling abroad to pursue their studies and providing a justification for their arrest upon their return,” the group said.[8]

Training of Hamas Militants in Malaysia – 2014

On July 21, 2014, during operation “Protective Edge”, the IDF arrested a Hamas cell commander in Khan Yunis who was a part of the group’s regional battalion.[9]

The suspect told the Shin Bet that he joined Hamas in 2007 and became a part of its military wing, the Izadin Al Qassam Brigades. The suspect traveled to Malaysia in 2012, where he and nine other Hamas members learned in a week-long military-style exercise how to fly a powered parachute. The cell members underwent repeated training sessions on how to fly into Israel and carry out attacks, and were ordered by their Hamas commanders to keep their training top secret.[10]

Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has dismissed Israel’s claims that Malaysia is serving as a training ground for Hamas fighters in Palestine. He said that Malaysia supports the Palestinian struggle from a moral and humanitarian standpoint and enjoys diplomatic relations with the embattled nation’s leaders, a fact that may have irked Israel.

“To date, we enjoy a diplomatic, trade and cultural relationship with the state of Palestine and are strong supporters of the humanitarian struggle there.[11]

The Hamas Terrorist Network in the West Bank – Targeting the PA and Israel (2014)

 In May 2014, Israel arrested 93 Hamas militants in the West Bank on suspicion of setting up a network of cells to commit attacks against Israel and to carry out a coup d’état against  the Palestinian Authority. The cells in the West Bank and Jerusalem planned to destabilize the region through a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Israel and then topple the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority. The Turkey-based Hamas overseas headquarters orchestrated the plot, which centered on a string of mass casualty terror attacks against Israeli targets. The end goal was to destabilize the Palestinian territories and use the ensuing chaos to carry out a military coup, overthrowing the government of Palestinian Authoriy President Mahmoud Abbas. According to sources, Khaled Mashaal, Hamas’s overseas wing leader in Qatar, was aware of the plot although there was no involvement from Hamas in Gaza.

As a result of the arrests and interrogations, the Shin Bet, Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces seized approximately 600,000 shekels ($171,000), 24 rifles, mostly M-16s, six pistols, seven rocket launchers, and a large quantity of ammunition. Defense sources estimated the cost of the arms and ammunition at several million shekels.[12]

One of the key members of the terrorist network was Dr. Majdi  Mafarja, a resident of Beit Likiya with a doctorate in computer science specializing in encryption and cyber warfare. Hamas sent Mafarja to Malaysia, where he trained in message encryption and computer hacking. Security sources described Mafarja as representative of “a new generation of Hamas members,” adding that he is “highly intelligent” and fluent in computer programming.

According to the Shin Bet, he was arrested on May 22, 2014, and admitted during interrogation that he had served as courier for apparently encoded messages for the military wing of Hamas.


According to Israel, Hamas operatives in Malaysia actively recruit Palestinians students who are studying there for terror operations. Recruiters also put the students through ideological preparation that includes joining the Muslim Brotherhood and Palestinian charities that operate there. After their training, the operatives are sent to set up military networks in the West Bank, act as messengers between the territories and foreign countries, and carry out secret transfers of funds to meet Hamas’ needs.

This is the third time since 2014 that Israel has presented detailed allegations about Hamas activities in Malaysia.

Malaysia has a consistent anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian foreign policy. Malaysia, Turkey and Qatar were the main supporters of Hamas during itswar against Israel in July – August 2014. Malaysia is a strategic ally of the United States in the war against terrorism (like Turkey and Qatar), but it publicly supports Hamas, a designated terrorist organization.

Supporting any type of radical Islamic organization including Hamas can be risky for Malaysia, which tries to maintain a fragile balance between Islam and modernity and democracy. Malaysia has to learn from the experience of other Muslim states, which found radical Islam to be a “double edge sword”, and halt its assistance to Hamas and other radical Islamic terrorist organizations.


[1] Amos Harel , Shin Bet: Hamas training Palestinian students in Malaysia, Haaretz, April 28, 2015.

[2] Hamas denies training Malaysia-based Palestinians for military, FMT News, April 29, 2015.

[3] Amos Harel , Shin Bet: Hamas training Palestinian students in Malaysia, Haaretz, April 28, 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] MD Izwan, Putrajaya denies Israel’s allegation Hamas training Palestinian students in Malaysia, The Malaysian Insider, April 29, 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Hamas denies recruiting Malaysia-based students, World Bulletin, April 28, 2015.

[9] Yaakov Lappin, Hamas terrorists trained in Malaysia for parachute attack, Shin Bet says, Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2014.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Akil Yunus, Zahid: Israel out to tarnish image with ‘Malaysia training Hamas’ accusation, The Star Online, August1,2014.

[12] Gil Cohen, Israel arrested 93 Hamas men in West Bank over terror network targeting PA, Israel, Haaretz, August  18, 2014.

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).