Report: Israeli Special Forces' Cover Was Blown in Botched Gaza Op Because of Their Accents

Israeli special forces, who were joined by a woman, posed as a medical team and had used IDs of local Gazans to enter Gaza, Hamas sources tell The Independent

Jack Khoury
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A vehicle that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza after the botched operation took place in November 2018.
A vehicle that was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza after the botched operation took place in November 2018.Credit: SUHAIB SALEM/רויטרס
Jack Khoury

Israeli special forces who entered Gaza last month to carry out an operation that fell through were reportedly exposed by Hamas fighters because of their accents, British online newpaper The Independent reported Sunday. 

The Israeli special forces tried to disguise themselves in the Strip by entering as medical team with ID cards of Gaza residents, the report alleged. 

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

The military court in Gaza announced that it has setenced six people to death over collaboration in other cases, and sentenced an additional seven to life in jail with forced labor. "We tell all collaborators to make their own calculations and turn themselves in, because sooner or later we will get to them. Our job is to protect the forces of the resistance, and it's an important task for us," the group stated. 

"Collaborators ought to understand that Israel can't provide them with protection, and they can't escape the law and justice, we will get to them everywhere."

According to Hamas sources, the Israeli troops may have entered Gaza through the Erez crossing. 

A 41-year-old Israeli officer, idenitified as Lt. Col. M., was killed and another was 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.

An IDF checkpoint on the Gaza border near Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, November 12, 2018. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The residents whose IDs were reportedly used by the Israeli soldiers live in a different area than the Khan Yunis 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. 

Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said that the Israeli forces were posing as NGO workers. He also told The Independent that Palestinian security forces had questioned the Gazans whose IDs were found in the destroyed military vehicle that was left behind by the Israeli troops. 

"They had detailed but fake ID cards of Gaza residents which were found [in the wreckage]. Those who the Israelis were posing as were detained but they had no idea their names had been used," Qassem said.

Qassam refused to comment on the purpose of the Israeli operation in Gaza.

The spokesman also claimed that a woman had joined the Israeli team. "They used [her presence] to try to justify their entry into Gaza, and they had a story ready should they be questioned," he said. 

A different Hamas official, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed that the Israeli team said at a checkpoint that it was returning patients to their homes and that they had a wheelchair in the back of their car

According to him, the soldiers presented their fake IDs but Palestinian security personnel suspected them "because of their accents" and their intonations that didn't match the area they claimed to come from

The official added that there was a "high possibility" that the team entered Gaza legally through a checkpoint.

Senior officers were summoned to the scene then decided to take the Israeli force to further questioning, at which point the Israeli team reportedly opened fired and killed a Hamas commander and his deputy.

The Israeli Defense Forces declined to comment on any of the Hamas official's allegations.

Last week, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. appointed Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon to head a general assessment of the army’s special operations.

Findings from an army investigation on the Gaza incident 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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