Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90
Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades at the funeral of their members killed during clash with Israeli special forces in Khan Younis, November 12, 2018.

On Thursday, Hamas revealed alleged information about the IDF’s operation deep inside the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Nov. 11, in which Lieutenant Colonel M. was killed, and following which some 500 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian settlements near the border.

According to Israeli media outlets, Hamas is in the process of tracing the extent of the ” Mista’arvim” unit’s inside Gaza, not overnight but for a considerable period of time during which they allegedly rented lodgings in Gaza and visited strategic locations, including the homes of top Hamas leaders.

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Mista’arvim is the name given to Israeli security counter-terrorism units who operate undercover deep inside Arab-held territory. These units are trained to assimilate among the local Arab population and are tasked with intelligence gathering, arrests of wanted terrorists, hostage rescue and assassinations, using disguise and surprise as their main weapons.

The name is derived from the Arabic “Musta’arabi,” meaning “those who live among the Arabs,” which refers to the Arabic-speaking Musta’arabi Jews who lived in the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab rule in the 7th century.

The IDF Spokesperson quickly issued a statement on behalf of the military censor Thursday, saying, “Hamas is currently trying to decipher and comprehend the incident that took place deep inside Gaza (11/11), and any bit of information, even if it is deemed harmless, may endanger human life and harm state security. 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.”

Several Gaza Arabs were killed in the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip, including a senior member of Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Heavy exchanges of fire developed between the sides, the Israeli air force launched dozens of missiles, and red alarms were heard in the Gaza envelope communities.

The Gaza Health Ministry confirmed that seven people had been killed in the incident, including the head of the military wing, Nur Bracha. According to Hamas’ announcement, an IDF force entered Khan Yunis in a civilian car in order to kidnap Bracha, was exposed and caught fire.

The Hamas goal in fanning the flames of debate over the 11/11 operation is to collect information. It simply doesn’t fully trust that the information it has is real, and so it hopes that Israeli citizens, a talkative bunch every last one of them, will share, distribute, speak, try to identify, and speculate who did what and where. Hamas hopes that this would provide the missing details to corroborate or refute its nightmare: that the streets of Gaza are scattered with undercover Israeli agents – not just Arab collaborators who betray their own for a few shekels, but real-life IDF soldiers who pass for Palestinians.

The photos that have been released by Hamas after the operation indicate that the retreating IDF unit left several items behind in the field, and in Gaza they’re wondering what they were for.

On the night of the operation, one Hamas operative reported on the organization’s network: “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.”

After the special force had been exposed, Hamas operatives were furious on the radio: “Warplanes are above us, you must come to the location so [the force] can’t get out!”

At the beginning of the incident Hamas members suspected that the perpetrators were criminals. One Hamas vehicle pursued the Volkswagen, and a checkpoint was deployed down the road. The Volkswagen with the IDF force broke through the checkpoint and, according to transcripts of conversations by Hamas members, the fighters inside opened fire.

“The vehicle broke through our checkpoint and fired at us from within the vehicle,” the Hamas radio reported.

A Hamas radio announcer warned the forces against the approaching air force: “Listen to these instructions – they are Jews. Fighter planes are coming from the north. They attacked one of the cars. Hide, closed in on the Jews, so they won’t be able to escape.”

Lieutenant Colonel M had to decide in a split second. That was the amount of time he had, the moment he realized his force had been exposed and if he did not respond immediately, the entire force might be killed or captured. He took out his weapon and opened fire at the Hamas checkpoint near Khan Younis, two miles or so from the Israeli border. Meanwhile, a helicopter shelled one of the Hamas vehicles that was pursuing the force.

Lieutenant Colonel M. was already dead at this point, in the wake of the exchange of fire, and the officer who rescued him was moderately wounded. The soldiers managed to reach a rescue point where an IDF helicopter rescued them and took them to hospital for treatment.

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