Israel tried to wiretap Hamas in botched mission, group says

Israel tried to wiretap Hamas in botched mission, group says
Palestinians attend a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas' founding, in Gaza City December 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Israel tried to wiretap Hamas in botched mission, group says

Israel tried to wiretap Hamas in botched mission, group says
  • Hamas thwarted an attempt to “plant spying devices in the Gaza Strip,” a Qassam spokesman, identified only as Abu Obeida, said in the statement
  • Israel’s military has not released details about the operation which went awry Nov. 11

GAZA CITY: Gaza’s ruling Hamas said Saturday that Israeli undercover forces had attempted to install equipment to monitor the group’s landline communications network during a botched mission in November.
The findings of a lengthy investigation were announced by the Hamas military wing, known as the Qassam Brigades, in a pre-recorded TV statement.
Hamas presented surveillance footage, as well as photos of drills, chain saws and two pistols with silencers, to back up its claims.
Hamas thwarted an attempt to “plant spying devices in the Gaza Strip,” a Qassam spokesman, identified only as Abu Obeida, said in the statement.
Israel’s military has not released details about the operation which went awry Nov. 11, leading to the heaviest round of cross-border fire, including Hamas rockets and Israeli airstrikes, since a 2014 war between the two sides.
The Hamas statement described an Israeli mission that allegedly spanned close to a year.
Abu Obeida said Israel brought equipment and vehicles into Gaza through a commercial crossing point between January and October. Fifteen members of the unit entered Gaza on a foggy night through the perimeter fence a few days before Nov. 11, the spokesman said.
A woman working with the Israeli unit entered Gaza several times, disguised as an employee of a humanitarian organization, the spokesman said. Members of the unit used forged IDs of local Gazans and the documents of a charity group, he added.
On Nov. 11, the unit was detected by Hamas fighters as it drove near the town of Abassan in southern Gaza. The discovery sparked a firefight, in which a member of the undercover unit and two Hamas gunmen, including a local commander, were killed. Five other militants were killed in airstrikes as Israeli aircrafts provided cover to airlift the force, including the dead officer.
In the televised statement, Hamas showed low-resolution surveillance camera footage purportedly showing two vehicles being used by the undercover squad. The footage showed some faces of the occupants of the vehicles and what Hamas said was the moment its gunmen searched the van.
According to the investigation, which confirmed previous reports, the firefight began when a local Hamas commander, Nour Baraka, ordered the detention of the occupants of the van who then shot him with silencer pistols. In the exchange of fire, a member of the Israeli force and another Hamas gunman were also killed before the van sped away.
Hamas said the slain Israeli commander of the group was an Arab with the rank of lieutenant colonel.


US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’
Updated 17 January 2021

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’
  • Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and hostssome 5,000 American troops
  • UAE hosts 3,500 US troops and its Jebel Ali port is the busiest port of call for American warships outside of the US

DUBAI: The US called Bahrain and the UAE “major security partners” early on Saturday, a previously unheard of designation for the two countries home to major American military operations.
A White House statement tied the designation to Bahrain and the UAE normalizing ties to Israel, saying it “reflects their extraordinary courage, determination and leadership.” It also noted the two countries long have taken part in US military exercises.
It’s unclear what the designation means for Bahrain and the UAE.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, while the UAE’s Jebel Ali port is the busiest port of call for American warships outside of the US. Bahrain hosts some 5,000 American troops, while the UAE hosts 3,500, many at Al-Dhafra Air Base.
Already, the US uses the designation of “major non-NATO ally” to describe its relationship with Kuwait, which hosts the forward command of US Army Central. That designation grants a country special financial and military considerations for nations not part of NATO. Bahrain also is a non-NATO ally.
The US military’s Central Command and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 5th Fleet referred queries to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House designation comes in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump forged close ties to Gulf Arab countries during his time in office in part over his hard-line stance on Iran.
That’s sparked a series of escalating incidents between the countries after Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
It also comes after Bahrain and the UAE joined Egypt and Saudi Arabia in beginning to resolve a yearslong boycott of Qatar, that houses Al-Udeid Air Base.