Behind the scenes of CBS News’ interview with a Hamas commander in the West Bank


CBS News senior foreign correspondent Debora Patta conducted a rare interview with a Hamas commander and recruiter in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, four months after the group launched its bloody terror attack on Israel, sparking the ongoing war in Gaza. The militant said the war was helping draw new members to Hamas in the West Bank — a point one veteran Israeli hostage negotiator didn’t dispute. Below is the backstory of Patta’s interview with a key member of the U.S. and Israeli-designated terror organization — a wanted man.

Jenin, West Bank — Our interview with the Hamas recruiter was scheduled to take place on Feb. 9 in the sprawling Jenin refugee camp — long considered a hotbed of militant activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. 

We met our contact at the appointed location and had been told in advance that we would have to leave our vehicle behind and jump into a different car — one the Hamas unit deemed trustworthy.  

Although the meeting point wasn’t that far away, the route we took was circuitous. The driver expertly navigated his way through roads that were a mess of rubble and ruin. 

Israeli security forces have stepped up raids on Jenin and they frequently demolish the streets with bulldozers to make more movement difficult. Every now and again we’d come across a deep ditch or a pile of broken concrete slabs that there was no way around, forcing us to turn back and find a different route.

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Around 10,000 people live in the densely packed Jenin refugee camp, with its square, concrete homes and low-rise apartment buildings separated by steep, winding alleys.

Eventually we came to a stop and were directed to continue on foot down a narrow road. The walls of some of the homes were pockmarked by bullet holes. Two armed, masked Hamas fighters were waiting to escort us briskly up three flights of stairs onto the roof of one of the homes. 

It was dank and dark inside, barely furnished, and it looked as if nobody was actually living there. As we came out into the sunlight on the rooftop, we were greeted by another man.

He was softly spoken and called himself Abu Abed. He told us he was a commander in Hamas’ military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, in the Jenin camp. Just 25 years old, he said he joined Hamas when he was 16 and that he’d already spent four years in Israeli jails.

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

Unlike his two bodyguards, his weapon wasn’t visible, but I spotted a pistol tucked into his jacket pocket.

The two masked gunmen stood by his side the entire time, their fingers on the triggers of their assault rifles, ready for any sudden movement. One of them seemed nervous and would periodically walk to peer over the balcony to monitor the streets below. 

At one point, Abu Abed abruptly stopped the interview to ask, “Are we done soon? There are planes above the area.”

Their biggest concern was the threat of another raid by the Israeli security forces. After just over half an hour, our interview was finished and we were quickly ushered down the stairs and back onto the road outside. 

Our contact was ready to drive us back to our own vehicle. Our masked Hamas escorts had vanished — disappearing down one of the many side alleys. 


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