Hamas has published three versions of a kidnapper’s handbook – guides that provide practical and doctrinal information for carrying out attacks. The following analyses of the handbooks are based on open-source materials. 1. On 23 February 2010, the Palestinian Information Center, run by Hamas, reported the distribution of the first edition of a 200-page book entitled, "An Inside Perspective of the Resistance (Al-Muqawama)." The book deals extensively with the subject of the abduction of Israelis as a means to securing the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.
A report on the book was also published on 5 March 2010 by the Islamic Bloc at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, a group of students identified with Hamas.
The book was written by Muhammad Arman, a senior Hamas member imprisoned in Israel. Arman was the commander of the Silwan Squad, which carried out horrific terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada (including the attack on the Moment Cafe in Jerusalem, an attack in Rishon Lezion and the attack on the Hebrew University in Jerusalem). He was arrested in August 2002 and sentenced to 36 life sentences. Due to the severity of his crimes and the danger he posed, Israel refused to release him as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.
In the book, Arman offers detailed operative suggestions, including on kidnapping, together with an analysis of the processes and the difficulties facing the "resistance" (the Palestinian code-word for terrorism). In general, he lays out the recommended combat doctrine for the "resistance" in the West Bank. For example, he recommends firing rockets and mortar shells towards Israeli targets from the West Bank. He also advises how to exploit the various communications mediums (cell phones, the Internet, etc.), while taking the necessary precautions.
Arman also elaborates on the subject of the abduction of "Zionist soldiers" in order to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners. His instructions constitute a detailed combat doctrine on the subject of kidnappings. Among the wealth of operative tips that he lays out in his book, Arman states, for example:
- That it is definitely possible to hold an Israeli abductee on the West Bank for long periods of time (years), as long as the kidnappers use common sense and plan the operation meticulously;
- That the kidnappers must be "sleeper" Hamas activists, that have been secretly nurtured from a young age without being exposed to [Palestinian] collaborators with Israel;
- That it is worthwhile to kidnap certain kinds of Israeli soldiers in order to increase the effectiveness of the abduction. According to Arman, the desired characteristics of a soldier that it would be worthwhile to abduct are: an Ashkenazi Jew, married, the father of children, whose parents are alive;
- That an underground hideout should be prepared well in advance (such as a pit that is prepared as a room to hold the abductee), far away from houses. Alternatively, it is possible to place the hideout in the vicinity of houses whose residents are not known to be collaborators and neither are they suspected, from the security point of view, by the enemy [Israel] so that there is no reason to believe that they will be arrested or their homes and surrounding areas searched.
Although references were made in the handbooks to kidnapping operations targeting Israeli soldiers, the 12 June 2014 kidnapping of three Israelis involved two 16-year-old high school students and a 19-year-old seminary student. Hamas has made many efforts to falsely portray these teenagers as soldiers, including in the June 23 Al-Jazeera interview with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
2. On 28 April 2013, Dr. Adnan Abu Amer, a lecturer at the Al Ummah University Open Education, published an article on the Arabic language Al Monitor media website called "The Countdown to the Next Abduction against the Israeli Army." The Al Monitor English version of the article is entitled "Is Hamas Planning to Kidnap More Israelis?"
3. Abu Amer, who also publishes opinion articles in Palestine, the mouthpiece of the Hamas movement, writes in his article that in 2013 the Hamas leadership – from Khaled Mashaal overseas down to the leaders of the movement in the Gaza Strip – disseminated many more messages than is usual to the terrorist arm of the movement. The terrorists had been given a free hand in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to again force Israel into a prisoner swap. The article presents a few examples of these messages.
According to Abu Amer:
- Khaled Mashaal, the head of the Political Bureau of Hamas, declared at that time that the only means to release Palestinian prisoners was by forcing Israel to exchange prisoners.
- Ismail Haniya, till recently the prime minister of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, gave Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Kassam Brigades a free hand in one of his speeches during that same period to bring the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners to an end. He gave the Gilad Shalit kidnapping case as an example.
- Hamas’ Ahmad Bahar, deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, called on the "armed factions" to set in motion their options to secure the release of the prisoners by all means.
- Atalla Abu-al-Sabah, the Hamas Minister of Prisoner Affairs, also emphasized the need to activate the "resistance option" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
4. Abu Amer also states that Hamas distributed, amongst the Izz al-Din al-Kassam Brigades, an 18-page booklet entitled "The Kidnapper’s Handbook," containing the combat doctrine of the field of abductions.
Reportedly, the manual details methods of conducting kidnapping operations. Among the recommendations:
- The kidnappers should learn Hebrew until they speak it fluently;
- They should target a soldier with a weak physique;
- The vehicle used in the operation should be immediately replaced.
5. It is important to note that a 16-page Kidnapper’s Handbook, similar to that mentioned by Abu Amer, had already been distributed in 2002.
It appears that over the years Hamas has been systematically engaging in the abduction doctrine. This while improving and honing its operative aspects pursuant to the lessons learned from actual abductions and attempted abductions, expending efforts to introduce this combat doctrine into the consciousness of the activists and motivating them to act when the need arises.