GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In cooperation with armed factions in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security services are cracking down on Palestinians suspected of providing field and logistics services to Israeli special forces. Those forces entered the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 11, but armed Hamas fighters exposed the incursion.
Security forces then launched the crackdown Nov. 13 and began seeking leads into the Israelis' mission. Investigators found sophisticated communications and electronic devices near a vehicle the invaders had abandoned. Israel had tried to destroy the evidence of the undercover raid by shelling the vehicle.
The Israeli special force apparently was seeking to collect intelligence information on the Palestinian factions’ military capabilities and to place a spying device in Khan Yunis. The crackdown has focused on the eastern parts of Khan Yunis near the border with Israel.
A senior Palestinian security source who declined to be named told Al-Monitor that security services have apprehended Palestinians suspected of helping the Israeli special forces. He said other suspects are also being pursued in the large-scale crackdown.
He added that two suspects were apprehended Nov. 13 as they tried to flee the southern Gaza Strip into Israel. The source stressed that those arrested are being investigated and anyone proved innocent will be freed.
The security official refused to divulge how many Palestinians have been implicated; he also would not provide any information about any confessions that might have been obtained. He said such serious information will remain confidential until security finishes the investigation, particularly since the surveillance cameras helped identify the force’s route and stops along the way.
However, on Nov. 15, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper cited an anonymous Palestinian faction source as saying that suspects being questioned have revealed past incursions well inside the Gaza Strip. The source also said the Israeli force members had spent more than 24 hours at a collaborator's house before the mission.
Iyad al-Bozm, a Gaza Interior Ministry spokesman, told Al-Monitor the ministry has been on alert and has set up more checkpoints on main and non-principal roads. Security forces have also been searching vehicles, believing that other collaborators or Israeli special force members are still in the Gaza Strip.
Bozm wouldn't comment on how many people have been apprehended on suspicion of assisting the special force.
“The competent security services, which have strived and taken various measures, are following up on a security matter and this shall not be disclosed to the media,” he said, adding that the ministry will make the probe’s outcome known once it's been wrapped up.
Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Al-Monitor that Palestinian factions’ armed wings had joined Hamas and Gaza Strip security services in the probe.
Aside from the current incident, the latest known Israeli breach of Gaza Strip security came May 5 in western Deir el-Balah governorate, where Hamas security members said they found a sophisticated Israeli spying device placed to tap Hamas’ private telecommunications network. The device exploded while being disassembled.
Previously, Gaza Strip security services and Palestinian factions managed to dismantle multiple intelligence cells and Israeli devices through repeated crackdowns. Most notable among those efforts was one that disclosed which cell killed Hamas leader Mazen Faqha in Gaza City in March 2017. In May of that year, Hamas executed three Palestinians it said were responsible.
Professor Ibrahim Habib of the Palestine Academy for Security Sciences in Gaza told Al-Monitor he believes Palestinian security services — whether affiliated with the government or the factions — are making headway in their current investigation.
He said Palestinian collaborators play a major role in the Israeli army’s numerous operations in the Gaza Strip, and the Interior Ministry’s ongoing security measures have aborted multiple Israeli schemes.
It seems Israel will not refrain from conducting operations in the Gaza Strip, despite the failures and arrests of collaborators. For Israel, such operations are crucial in identifying the enemy’s intentions and undercutting its military capacities before they can be used in future confrontations.
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