Army Thwarts Hamas Underwater Drone Attack on Israeli Ships

Hamas modifies inexpensive, unmanned, underwater drones in their workshops to accommodate an explosive payload of up to to 30 kilograms

Yaniv Kubovich
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An Israeli naval battleship in 2017.
An Israeli naval battleship in 2017.Credit: Jack Guez / AP
Yaniv Kubovich

The Israeli military said Monday that it had thwarted an attack by a Hamas cell that intended to use a remote-controlled submarine to disable Israel Navy ships.

The Israel Defense Forces said Hamas militants were killed and their submarine was destroyed in the attack. “The submarine that was attacked was launched from the shore in Gaza,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. “It went a few meters deep and was directed at a target, which could have been an Israeli beach or Israel Navy boats.”

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All of the world’s navies now use unmanned drones that operate above and below the surface of the water. Popular with hobbyists, requiring little training or maintenance and relatively inexpensive, at a few thousand dollars each or less, they are also accessible to terror organizations. Most are relatively simple to use. Some are capable of navigating to defined targets using GPS, while others operate by remote control.

Hamas modifies these drones in their workshops to accommodate an explosive payload of up to to 30 kilograms. The damage that an explosion of this size can do next to an Israel Navy boat or close to an Israeli beach is limited, but it could give Hamas the “victory photo” experts say the organization needs. The main target for Hamas is the Israel Navy or Israel’s offshore natural gas platforms. Submersibles of this kind can only gather naval intelligence or carry light payloads of equipment for Hamas’ naval commandos.

On Sunday, operations of the Tamar offshore platform were curtailed in the wake of reports that Hamas had attempted to strike the facility, located off of Israel’s southern coast. Military officials said the platform is adequately protected by missile boats and defense systems.

Navy officials say they are confident that Hamas has been deprived of all the naval assets amassed in recent years that Israeli military intelligence is aware of. Israel has hit seven production sites for naval equipment in Gaza, five ammunition dumps, eight homes of naval commandos, a number of military posts and rocket launchers. Three senior Hamas naval commandos were killed in an attack on Gaza and others who were targeted by Israel may have died.

Since the military operation began last week, Israeli warships have been deployed to prevent a Hamas naval commando infiltration into Israel – a primary gal for Hamas. Hamas aspires to carry out a raid like during the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, when naval commandos landed on the shore near Kibbutz of Zikim and attacked a tank and military outpost. That is the purpose of the Hamas naval program, though the Israel Navy has successfully prevented repeats of the 2014 raid.

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