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Documentary reveals new details of botched Israeli operation in Gaza

Video footage and audio recordings shed light on undercover fiasco that spiralled into deadly clashes
The Israeli commando entered Gaza Strip to plant spying devices in Hamas’ private communications network (Reuters)

New details have been revealed about a botched undercover Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip in November 2018 that led to the deaths of seven Palestinians - including a commander in Hamas's military wing and a senior Israeli officer.

Al Jazeera Arabic’s Ma Khafia Aazam (Tip of the Iceberg) on Sunday broadcast an investigative documentary showing the forged identity cards and driving licences used by members of Sayeret Matkal, an elite Israeli military unit.

The 16 Israeli commandos entered the Gaza Strip on the evening of 11 November 2018, in an intelligence-gathering mission and to plant spying devices in the private communications network of Hamas, the Palestinian movement that rules the besieged enclave.

According to the report, the Israelis used aliases of a real family in Gaza that also owned a blue bus similar to the one driven by Sareyet Maktal during the operation.

Once they were in Khan Younis to the southeast of Gaza City, suspicions arose and they were stopped by a Hamas patrol, which probed them for 40 minutes before a firefight broke out.

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A Hamas fighter told Ma Khafia Aazam that he saw a hand pull out a gun with a silencer on it, which shot and killed Nur Baraka, a commander of the movement's Ezz-din al-Qassam military wing.

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One of the Hamas members then is said to have shot an Israeli officer in the head. Named by the film as "Meni", the Israeli was reportedly the head of the unit.

The documentary showed footage from cameras installed on the bus and another vehicle used in the botched operation.

According to Ma Khafia Aazam, Israel used an international medical NGO to get equipment used in the operation into Gaza.

Tools and equipment were brought into the coastal enclave by a man holding a Portuguese passport under the name of Joa Santos, the film reported, passing through the same Erez checkpoint later used by Sayeret Matkal.

Israel's botched operation sparked a deadly exchange of air strikes and missile fire between Israel and Gaza, killing 14 Palestinians over a three-day period.

Yossi Melman, an Israeli security and intelligence expert, said “the price that Israel paid was high… It failed and did not achieve its mission".

Israel's military censor asked the Israeli media on Monday not to publish details broadcast by Al Jazeera, Channel 13 said.

Specifically, the order asked outlets to refrain from publishing images of the alleged commandos, recordings of their voices and footage from cameras inside the vehicles, apparently in order to prevent Hamas from obtaining more details on their identities.

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