Opinion: The news wasn’t good for the Israeli Defense Forces earlier this week. One of their elite Special Forces units conducting an intelligence operation in Gaza across the border was compromised. In the ensuing shootout, one senior IDF officer, a Lieutenant Colonel in their Special Forces was killed and another SF operator was “moderately wounded” and is expected to survive. He’s recovering in an Israeli hospital in the intensive care unit. During the shootout, seven Palestinians were killed although Hamas claims only six were members of their military wing.
The press immediately proclaimed that this dangerous Israeli mission was pushing the region close to all-out war. Well, as always there is plenty of that going around.
What is known about the operation so far is that the Israelis were operating in an area outside of Khan Yunis and had been conducting a long-term operation. Outside of a small farming community of Abasan, they were compromised and fired upon by Hamas security forces.
In the initial exchange of gunfire, the commander of the IDF team was killed. He was only identified officially as LTC M. But he was lauded by both the IDF and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that the army owed him “more than we can say.”
The wounded officer, a captain in the reserves was shot in the back which exited near his groin. But he was still able to direct Israeli troops to their exfiltration point. Once they boarded helicopters, the IDF launched an airstrike destroying the vehicles they were riding in.
Hamas released a statement where they admitted that a commander of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, Nour Baraka, as among the seven Palestinians killed. They claimed that the operation was an assassination or kidnapping of the Hamas commander possibly by the IDF’s Duvdevan unit.
But IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis hinted that the operation was part of their long-standing intelligence-gathering missions. “It is the sort of thing that takes place every night, and in most instances remains under the media’s radar.”
“It is an operation that takes time to plan. Commanding it directly are the Head of Intelligence and the Chief of General Staff. We are talking about an operation that was well planned right down to the smallest of details,” Manelis said.
This sounds more like a Sayeret Matkal operation. Sayeret Matkal is also known in the IDF as Unit 269 is the principal Sayeret or reconnaissance unit in the IDF. They are used to obtain strategic intelligence behind enemy lines and to perform hostage-rescue missions on foreign soil. They report directly Military Intelligence Directorate.
The Israelis didn’t need a long mission with people on the ground to assassinate a Hamas commander. There were numerous ways it could have been conducted that wouldn’t have been so overt. Especially with the Prime Minister trying to make concerted efforts to ease the suffering of the people there.
However, the mainstream media has made little mention of the Hamas response, which was to launch over 370 rockets at Israel from launch sites inside of Gaza. Apparently, that was considered a justifiable response. One Israeli civilian was killed and 10 others wounded. The Israelis then unleashed air strikes on the missile sites and also took out the Hamas owned and operated Al-Aqsa television station. The Israelis claim that the station is nothing more than a propaganda wing of Hamas.
Hamas tried to deflect the blame on Israel saying it wanted a truce and the prospects of peace was in Israel’s hands, which played well to the international press. But another issue that it failed to mention was that Islamic Jihad, two weeks ago, launched over 30 rockets at Israel, supposedly on the orders of the Iranian regime.
Hamas has been not been popular among the Palestinians lately, however this latest episode instead of furthering their stature among the Palestinians has re-elevated them to the status of heroes again.
To the Israelis, and the Netanyahu government, this is not coming at a good time. With tensions rising in Lebanon with Hezbollah, where the IDF is supposedly is planning operations, they don’t need another conflict on their border. But they also no that there is little hope for true peace with the regime. “There is no diplomatic solution to Gaza,” he said.
“You can’t have a political resolution with people who are committed to your destruction,” he said.
The operation, which went awry, is a testament to how dangerous these missions can be. The Israelis continuously conduct these, which are quite risky, but where they gain their intelligence on what is happening outside of their borders. Their operators, dress in Arab clothes, speak fluent Arabic and take incredible risks.
But it is also one of the reasons why they have the best intelligence in the region by far.