Israeli Special Forces 'Were Undercover in Gaza for Weeks' Before Botched Op

The soldiers had rented an apartment in the Strip under the cover of a medical team working with a local welfare organization, report says

Hamas claims these Israeli soldiers took part in the botched Gaza operation. IDF censored the pics

The Israeli force that ran the botched operation in Gaza in November had resided in the Strip for weeks prior, a Palestinian source told the Israel Television News Company Wednesday.

According to the source, the soldiers pretended to work for a Gaza-based welfare association, Al-Basma Club for the Disabled. In its investigation of the incident, Hamas found the apartment the Israeli force had rented in Khan Younis, the city where the operation took place.

On November 11, a 41-year-old Israeli officer was killed and another moderately wounded during the operation, and at least seven Palestinians were killed. Massive fire exchanges ensued between Israel and the Palestinians in the days following the failed raid, until a cease-fire was finally reached.

>> Analysis: Botched Israeli operation in Gaza endangers human rights groups

Reportedly, the Israelis' cover story was distribution of medical equipment and wheelchairs to Gazans in need. As part of its investigation, Hamas found the equipment in the apartment alongside signs that the force had been residing there for several week, the source told the News Company. Hamas then questioned the people who received the equipment, who apparently had no idea who their donors were.

According to the News Company, the force was exposed by chance due to a "problem" with some of the passengers in the vehicle, where something apparently "did not conform with customary activity in Palestinian culture." 

On Sunday, British online newspaper The Independent reported that the special forces were reportedly exposed by Hamas fighters because of their accents. The Israeli special forces tried to disguise themselves in the Strip by entering as medical team with ID cards of Gaza residents, the report said. 

A vehicle destroyed by an Israeli air strike after the Khan Younis operation on November 11, 2018.
SUHAIB SALEM/Reuters

The residents whose IDs were reportedly used by the Israeli soldiers live in a different area than the Khan Younis spot where the operation took place; their identities were allegedly used so as to make it harder to identify the soldiers in case they were discovered. 

Meanwhile, Hamas announced on Sunday that its security forces arrested several people suspected of collaborating with Israel in the Khan Younis operation. Hamas stated that it also hurt infrastructures of other collaborators in Gaza.