By Yona Schnitzer
Hamas has sentenced six Gazans to death by hanging for supposedly collaborating with Israeli security forces, the terror organization said in a press conference on Monday. Seven additional individuals were given life sentences which include intense physical labor.
According to reports, the actions of those sentenced had nothing to do with the botched IDF special forces operation near Khan Younis in November, in which an Israeli Lt. Colonel and seven Hamas gunmen were killed in a firefight after the Israel team was exposed, but was related to previous instances of “providing Israeli security forces with information that lead to the death of civilians in Gaza.”
On Sunday evening, the British Independent published further details about the failed operation, saying that it had been told by Gazan sources that Hamas’ investigation had revealed that Israeli soldiers posed as medical aid workers, and were in the possession of “detailed but fake” identification cards which bore the identity of actual residents of the Gaza Strip.
According to the report, the Israeli team assumed the identities of residents of part of the Gaza Strip far from the site of the operation, claiming they were there to transfer sick individuals from the hospitals to their homes. Upon stopping them at a checkpoint, a Hamas operative became suspicious of the IDF soldiers’ accents, which did not match the region they claimed they were from.
The suspicious checkpoint team called the local brigade commander, who decided to bring in the team for questioning, at which point a firefight broke out and the compromised crew made their escape, killing the Hamas commander as well as six additional militants.
The Israeli team escaped under cover of heavy Israeli Air Force artillery, and were extracted via helicopter from a field owned by a resident of the strip who has since disappeared.
Hamas has reportedly detained and questioned all the Gazans whose identities were commandeered by the Israeli soldiers for the operation, but released them soon after, as they had nothing to do with the incident.
The report also quoted Hamas officials as saying they suspect that the forces entered Gaza through the Erez border crossing, adding that they were most likely there to replace signal interception equipment. Since the incident, Hamas has reportedly set up many additional checkpoint and roadblocks, in an attempt to thwart similar operations.
The IDF has refused to comment on any of the reports.