JERUSALEM, July 7 (UPI) -- Israeli military forces say they are shutting down Hamas-affiliated institutions in the West Bank, including schools, health centers and charities.
Israeli officials say Hamas, the more militant of the two main Palestinian Arab factions, is spreading its control from Gaza to the West Bank, where popular support for it over the more moderate Fatah faction is enabling Hamas to take over not just Islamic institutions but civilian infrastructure as well, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Monday.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said the Israeli military is fighting "a rearguard battle" by targeting Hamas-controlled institutions in an attempt to cut off funding sources for terrorist activities. A military source said the move is also meant as a bid to stem Hamas' rising popularity and keep it from wresting control from the Palestinian Authority.
"They have knowledge, funds and skilled people, much more so than Fatah," the source told Haaretz. "They won the elections in many towns and local authorities, and they are gradually gaining control of more education, health, welfare and religious institutions."