Last week on November 11, an Israeli intelligence operation went awry in Gaza and the Israeli operatives, after having their cover blown by security forces, were forced to shoot their way out. In the bloody shootout that followed, the senior Israeli officer, identified only as LTC “M” was killed. A reserve Captain was seriously wounded. Six Hamas security men were killed, including a senior member of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

The Israeli operatives belonged to a very select Special Operations unit known as “Mista’arvim” in their military, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces). Mista’arvim is an Israeli security counter-terrorism unit that operates undercover deep inside Arab-held territory. These units are trained to blend among the local Arab population. Most come from an Arab/Israeli background and are native Arabic speakers. Their missions include intelligence gathering, arrests of wanted terrorists, hostage rescue and assassinations, using disguise and surprise as their main weapons.

The name Mista’arvim is derived from the Arabic “Musta’arabi,” meaning “those who live among the Arabs.” Back in during the Arab rule in the 7th century, there were many Arabic-speaking Musta’arabi Jews who lived amongst the Arab population.

According to Hamas’ releases, the Israeli unit hadn’t been in Gaza for just a few days but had been there for some weeks. They traced their activities for some time and found that the unit had rented safe houses and been scouting strategic locations, including the homes of senior Hamas officials. They’ve called on the public to assist in finding out more information.

In doing so, the published the photos of the Israeli undercover operatives, which will probably preclude them from ever working undercover again. Hamas has stated that the Israelis were looking to plant spy devices at key locations in the Hamas-controlled town.

But in another release, they stated that the Israelis were there to kidnap Nur Barakeh, head of Hamas military wing. It was Barakeh, who reportedly was killed in the firefight that followed.

Hamas released the information about the Special Operations team because they’re trying to verify their own findings and are perhaps unsure of their own intelligence. Therefore, they released the information via social media in an effort to monitor the Israeli side of social media.

Israeli social media would be quick to speculate, try to identify and discuss the events that unfolded and may give Hamas the needed intelligence that they are seeking on this operation.

The IDF military censors are going all out for the citizens of Israel not to discuss the events on social media nor to share the photos that Hamas has released on the Special Operations team.

“Hamas is working now to interpret and understand the event that occurred within Gaza on November 11, and every piece of information, even if it is considered by the publisher as harmless, is liable for endangering human lives and damaging the security of the state,” said the IDF Military Censor this week.

“Without regard to the credibility of the details published by Hamas, we encourage you to refrain as much as possible from further distributing images, personally identifiable information, or other personal information which has come to your attention in the media, social networks, WhatsApp groups, and any other media platform. We must act responsibly.”

In fact, Hamas seems shocked by the depth that Israeli Special Operations teams have infiltrated Gaza. The realization that there are teams of elite Israeli Special Operatives working freely the streets of Gaza is a scary proposition for Hamas, rather than have a few of their citizenry who have collaborated with the Jews.

Once the Israelis left their undercover vehicles to board rescue helicopters, the IDF drones and air force bombed them to prevent Hamas from finding any usable intelligence, however, they did find several items of interest and are still trying to piece the entire operation together.

The Hamas security people initially believed that they were on the tail of criminals. They thought the Israelis were drug smugglers until the IDF began firing on the Hamas fighters with drones and aircraft. Barakeh, according to Hamas questioned the passengers of the vehicle, including two IDF officers dressed in women’s clothing. When their subterfuge failed, weapons were drawn and a firefight broke out. The Israeli newspaper Hadashot had a copy of the radio transcripts from the Hamas people during the operation.

“To all forces and posts, a blue VW vehicle is near the Islamic University, traveling suspiciously and fast. There are suspects inside the vehicle, they are dangerous, approach them cautiously.”

This was followed by, “The vehicle broke through our checkpoint and fired at us from within the vehicle,” the Hamas radio reported. And then once the battle commenced, the Israelis raced to a spot for exfiltration by helicopter as they were 2 miles from the border. But the tone changed in the Hamas radio chatter.

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“Four fighter jets are above me. There was a strike near us. The jets are coming from the north. They attacked one of the (Hamas) cars. Hide. Close in on the Jews. Don’t let them leave Gaza,” one Hamas commander yelled into the radio during the bloody scrap.

In response to the firefight, Hamas then launched close to 500 rockets at Israel, many were intercepted by the Iron Dome air-defense artillery. However, one citizen was killed and over 100 were wounded. The Israelis responded with massive airstrikes that targeted over 160 military sites for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, four of which the IDF reported were of strategic importance. Then a truce, a cease-fire was brokered by the Egyptians and the area has settled down to an uneasy quiet…for now.

As a result, Hamas is now cracking down on its own people, their masked, police are now doing searches for “collaborators” who aided the Israelis. And in particular, a small van that may have either been driven by the Israels or by the Palestinians who helped them. Locals are being subjected to random searches of their persons and homes.

But this is normal operating procedure at times for Hamas. The leaders will root out political rivals, accuse them of spying for the Jews and executing them.

Regardless, the Hamas leadership is now operating in full-blown panic mode. They are seeing Israeli spies behind every wall and the political and military leaders of Hamas are reportedly not even speaking to one another.

Photo: Wikipedia