Elite Israeli Commandos Tried to Bug Hamas Communications During Botched Gaza Op, Hamas Says

Hamas' findings suggest 15 members of an IDF special operations unit entered Gaza following nearly a year of training ■ 'Israel should be concerned about the trove of information we have,' spokesman says

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Israeli equipment captured by Hamas following botched Gaza operation in November, displayed by Hamas on January 12, 2019.
Israeli equipment captured by Hamas following botched Gaza operation in November, displayed by Hamas on January 12, 2019.
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

An elite Israeli force that took part in the botched intelligence operation in the Gaza Strip in November tried to plant surveillance devices on Hamas' communication network, said on Saturday Abu Ubaida, spokesman for Hamas' military wing Iz al-Din al-Qassam, in a press conference in Gaza, exposing what the organization claims are the full details of the operation.

According to the findings presented by Hamas, the Israeli force, composed of 15 members of the Israel Defense Forces' Sayeret Matkal elite special operations unit, had no Palestinian collaborators.

The force, Abu Ubaida said, entered Gaza from Israel through an opening in the fence on a foggy night in an undisclosed area covered with woods, following nearly a year of training, from January to October of 2018. They allegedly used fake Gazan IDs and had forged documents of humanitarian workers.

>> Hamas-Abbas tension escalates situation on Gaza front. For Netanyahu, it's bad timing | Analysis

Abu Ubaida also said most of the equipment and vehicles used by the Israel force were let in through Kerem Shalom border crossing. The two vehicles used by them were later found by Hamas forces, after the Israeli unit had been exposed on the night of November 11.

Hamas claims that on that night, its forces tried arresting the Israeli soldiers, but a firefight ensued, leading to the deaths of a senior IDF officer and seven Hamas operative, including a senior military commander. The Israeli force then retreated.

The Israeli soldiers had been in and out of Gaza several times, Hamas claims, and operated not only there but in other countries in the Middle East. According to Abu Ubaida, one of them had stayed in Gaza for several days just before the operation, under the guise of an aid worker. They had allegedly rented a guest room near the Khan Yunis beachfront, in southern Gaza, which they used as their assembly point.

>> Botched Israeli operation in Gaza endangers human rights groups | Analysis ■ Top security panel asks Israeli army for classified report on botched Gaza op | Analysis

"Israel should be concerned about the trove of information we have," Abu Ubaida said, warning Palestinians "who collaborate with Israel and assist the Israeli forces' infiltration, we'll get to them."

Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said last month his organization obtained “a security technology asset that is a real treasure” when it disrupted the Israeli operation in. Haniyeh claimed that what Hamas captured during the botched operation exposed the Israeli military's operating methods, which will have “implications in the war of minds” between Israel and his Islamist organization.

A 41-year-old Israeli officer, identified as Lt. Col. M., was killed and another was moderately wounded during the operation. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who praised the force's bravery, has appointed a commission to conduct a general assessment of the army’s special operations following the November incident.

Israeli equipment captured by Hamas following botched Gaza operation in November, displayed by Hamas on January 12, 2019.

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