Hamas’ military wing began using unmanned aircraft filled with explosives to surprise Israel and secure military achievements.
So far, the IDF has thwarted all attempts to hit Israel with these suicide drones, but Hamas is trying to get its hands on the more sophisticated drones used with deadly efficiency by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Muhammad Deif, Hamas’ chief of staff, may be frustrated that he failed to surprise Israel at the beginning of the current campaign. His secret plan to infiltrate several dozen Hamas terrorists from the elite “Nokhba” force into Israel through invasion tunnels was discovered in advance by Israeli intelligence. The IDF bombed the tunnels, killed some of the terrorists, and others were trapped inside the collapsed tunnels.
Muhammad Deif then activated a squad of naval commandos to penetrate Israel by sea and launch an underwater drone. Israel also had advanced information about the planned operation; the IDF attacked the unit from the air and thwarted the operation.
The successful assassination by the IDF and Israel’s General Security Services early in the campaign of four senior officials from Muhammad Deif’s senior command, led by Bassem Issa, the commander of the northern Gaza Strip, and ten of their aides, while they held separate secret meetings in two houses in Gaza City and Khan Yunis, was a critical operational blow and a shock to morale.
Muhammad Deif is now looking for another way, in addition to launching hundreds of rockets at Israel, to avenge the deaths of the terrorists.
Enter the Drones
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing launched several unmanned, booby-trapped drones to attack communities and IDF forces in the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip.
The IDF detected all the suicide drones in the air, tracked them, and shot them down – in some cases with the Iron Dome – before they were able to carry out their mission.
In another case, Israeli intelligence located a Hamas team preparing to launch an explosive drone, apparently a quadcopter, at Israel, attacked it from the air, exploding the craft and its handlers.
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing unveiled a new drone, called the Shihab, made operational last week. They claimed it attacked a gas storage tank near Ashkelon and IDF forces on the Gaza border.
Hamas began using drones in Operation Protective Edge in 2014, a model based on the Iranian “Ababil” drone (also used by Hizbullah).
Hamas claims that the drones’ first mission was successful, flying over the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv during the 2014 Operation Protective Edge.
The drones are an Iranian development, but they are not as elaborate as the potent drones used by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, through which they have attacked targets in Saudi Arabia. Today, Hamas and Iran are trying to smuggle this technological knowledge to the engineers of Hamas’ military-terrorist wing.
Hamas engineer Mohammed al-Zawahri, who trained in Iran and was allegedly assassinated by the Israeli Mossad in Tunisia in 2016, contributed greatly to the development of Hamas’ drones, which can be used for surveillance and “suicide” bombing missions.
Hamas’ military-terrorist wing claims that the use of unmanned aircraft provides a balance of deterrence vis-à-vis Israel. Some, they claim, are already in operational use, and another more elaborate model is in advanced development stages.