Israel’s botched undercover operation in Gaza last November was aimed at bugging Hamas’ communications, the military wing of Hamas has said.
Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs Gaza said on Saturday that the November 11 special forces operation, which Israel said was an intelligence-gathering mission, turned deadly when the undercover soldiers were spotted near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The ensuing firefight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinians, including a local Hamas military commander.
Abu Obeida, a spokesperson for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said that 15 members of an elite Israeli military unit had infiltrated Gaza via the border fence and travelled in the enclave using cars disguised as vehicles belonging to a local charity.
Their goal was “establishing a spy system to eavesdrop on the communications network of the resistance in the Gaza Strip”, Abu Obeida said, showing video footage of what he said was the soldiers in action.
Hamas also managed to capture equipment used by the group, Abu Obeida added, promising a million dollars to any local “collaborator” who would supply Hamas with information about the operation.
On Tuesday, Hamas said it had arrested 45 Palestinian “collaborators” with Israel following the Khan Yunis incident.
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Hamas had already published photos of eight people and two vehicles it said were linked to the operation, prompting the Israeli army censor to appeal to the public and media not to republish the images.
The incident prompted Hamas to vow revenge and sparked the deadliest flare-up between the two sides since Israel’s military assault on Gaza in 2014.
A November 13 ceasefire brokered by Egypt ended the fighting that had raised fears of another war between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.
Israel has launched three military assaults on the Gaza Strip since 2008 and has kept it under a blockade along with Egypt for more than a decade.
Israel says the measure is necessary to isolate Hamas and prevent it from obtaining weapons, though critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the territory’s two million residents.