Hamas says botched Israeli Gaza raid aimed to bug comms

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


The military wing of Gaza's Hamas rulers said Saturday that the aim of a botched undercover Israeli operation in the Palestinian enclave aimed to plant spying devices in their communications network.

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 Palestinian militants, including a local Hamas military commander.

A spokesman 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 Gazan "collaborators" with Israel following the Khan Yunis incident.

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 a 2014 war.

A November 13 ceasefire brokered by Egypt ended the fighting that had raised fears of another war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Hamas and its allies have fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade 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.