The botched special operation conducted by the Israelis in Gaza back in November was widely publicized at the time and spurred the response of Hamas, which launched nearly 500 rockets at Israel in the aftermath. It is proof, that even excellently produced plans, conducted by seasoned, tried and true professionals can go awry.
Hamas is now offering a $1 million dollar bounty to anyone who can identify the Israeli operatives who they claim were the ones involved in the operation. They posted pictures of the operatives on social media, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) censors blurred the images on Israeli social media and television.
During this operation which took place on November 11, several Israeli Special Operations operatives from Sayeret Matkal, the elite special operations unit had crossed into Gaza and were operating near Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
According to Hamas, the team members entered Gaza from Israel through an opening in the fence on a foggy night in an undisclosed area covered with woods in October of 2018. They allegedly used fake Gazan IDs and had forged documents of humanitarian workers. They were on an intelligence gathering operation where they were planting eavesdropping devices to monitor Hamas communications. Things began to go awry when the Israeli unit was stopped by Hamas security forces, who believed them at the time to be a criminal gang and not Israeli operatives.
When their cover was blown, the Israeli and Hamas forces began to shoot it out. A senior Hamas security officer and the commander of the Israeli team were killed. Another Israeli operative was seriously wounded. The team raced to a prearranged exfiltration point where IDF helicopters picked up the remaining members of the team.
IDF Air Force planes then bombed the vehicles that the team had used to stop any intelligence gathering attempt by Hamas inside the vehicles and provide close air support for the team against quick reaction forces of Hamas. The Israelis claim that “between 16 and 20 Hamas members were killed and another 40 to 60 were wounded.” IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said the special forces “completed many operations in recent years that benefit Israel’s security.”
Speaking to Israeli television news on Saturday, Eisenkot said “there were mistakes made” in that operation as well as “heroic actions.”
The Israelis are conducting an internal investigation on the mission which according to Hamas, involved 12-15 operatives who had been crossing the border frequently in the months leading up to the mission. They apparently possessed falsified documents and had posed as employees of an aid agency.
In the immediate aftermath of the operation, Hamas began to round up anyone suspected of helping the Israeli team. They arrested “45 agents after the security incident east of Khan Younis last November and they are under investigation.”
They then responded with rocket and mortar attacks that targeted Israel. They fired about 460 projectiles in Israeli territory. One man, a Palestinian laborer was killed when a rocket hit a building was working at in the city of Ashkelon and 27 people were wounded. They also published a video where they launched an anti-tank missile at a bus that they claimed was used by the IDF to shuttle troops.
The IDF Air Force responded with massive air strikes inside the Gaza Strip. At least seven more Palestinians were killed. Then Egypt brokered a cease-fire that stopped the bombing and rocket fire …for now.
On Saturday, Hamas released a video that shows surveillance footage taken from cameras located on the road near Khan Younis. The video, which aired on Hamas TV and by the Hamas-affiliated news agency Shehab, is made up of surveillance footage and animated reenactment of the operation. It is typical of the Hamas production with dramatic music interspersed with bold graphics.
In the compilation shown, there are two commercial vehicles which Hamas says was used by the Israeli team can be seen driving around Khan Younis. The footage also allegedly shows two Israeli operatives, a man and a woman, in what appears to be a grocery store.
The vehicles had been spotted by Hamas security forces but they believed they were dealing initially with a criminal gang and resultant gang activity.
Hamas spokesman Abu Obaida, from their military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, gave the brief presentation complete with military fatigues and his head wrapped in a scarf. He said the terror group was offering “a pardon to any possible collaborators” who assisted the Israeli teams and would help in identifying them. He said Hamas would also offer $1 million for information about the Israeli special forces.
Hamas had already published photos of eight people and two vehicles it said were linked to the operation immediately after the operation. This action prompted the Israeli army censor to appeal to the public and media not to republish any of the images. (Which are blurred here)
“Israel should be concerned about the trove of information we have,” Abu Obaida said, warning Palestinians “who collaborate with Israel and assist the Israeli forces’ infiltration, we’ll get to them.” He claimed that they tracked the Israeli team, not only in Gaza but in other countries in the Middle East. One member of the team allegedly rented a beachfront property in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza which the team used as an assembly point.
Hamas also released photos of the weapons and other equipment, including saws, drills and two pistols with silencers, that were allegedly left behind from the Israeli team. The Hamas video can be seen here:
Photos: Screenshots from Hamas video