Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has appointed Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon to head a general assessment of the army’s special operations. The appointment follows an incident two weeks ago in which an IDF officer was killed during a covert operation in Khan Yunis, in the Gaza Strip, after a firefight with Hamas operatives.
Findings from an army investigation on the Gaza incident itself, are to be submitted to Eisenkot and Military Intelligence head Maj. Gen Tamir Heyman in the coming weeks, according to the IDF Spokesman’s Office.
Announcement of the team headed by Maj. Gen. Alon followed a request from the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to receive a classified briefing on the Gaza operation on November 11, which precipitated massive rocket fire on Israeli border communities from the Strip.
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Generally such briefings are given by the defense minister – who, since the recent resignation of Avidgor Lieberman is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – or by the IDF chief of staff. The committee asked that the ministerial survey be presented to a limited number of its members, apparently those on the intelligence subcommittee; both that body and the committee itself are chaired by Knesset member Avi Dichter (Likud).
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Little information has been made public in Israel about the incident east of Khan Yunis, in which the IDF officer, identified only as Lt. Col. M., and seven Hamas operatives were killed.
This was at least the third time in the past decade that Arab media outlets have claimed that significant secret Israeli intelligence activity has been revealed – and the only time that Israel has confirmed that the operation was in fact Israeli.
The two prior cases involved discovery of alleged Israeli spy networks in Lebanon in 2009, and the assassination of a senior Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai in 2010, after which authorities in the emirate claimed that agents from the Mossad espionage agency were involved.
Since the botched Israeli intelligence operation in Egypt in 1954 known as the Lavon Affair, the relevant bodies have investigated operations that were considered to have been failures. Such investigations have sometimes sparked mutual accusations and power struggles among local intelligence agencies, in their efforts to delineate their areas of responsibility.
With respect to the recent Gaza incident, Palestinian sources have publicized a large number of details concerning Hamas’ search for others involved in the operation, as well as about efforts by the Islamic group to figure out how Israeli soldiers were able to infiltrate so deeply into the Strip.
On the Israeli side, the military censor’s office has asked the media not to republish pictures, disseminated by Hamas, ostensibly showing the faces of IDF soldiers involved in the operation.