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Israel forms intelligence unit targeting Hamas ‘commandos’

Called Nili, the new group’s mission is wiping out members of the Palestinian militants’ elite Nukbha unit

Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence agencies have formed a new operations group to hunt down members of the Hamas commando unit that led the militants’ surprise attack on Israel earlier this month, Israeli media reported on Sunday. 

Nili, which takes its name from an early 20th century Jewish spy ring that assisted the British against the Ottomans in Palestine during World War I, will focus on tracking down and killing every member of Hamas’ elite Nukbha force involved in the deadly raid that left 1,400 Israelis dead and captured another 210 hostages. The group’s name stands for “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie” in Hebrew. 

At least two Nukbha commanders have already been killed in airstrikes, according to the Israel Defense Forces: the group’s Khan Younis battalion commander Billal al-Qedra and company commander Ali Qadhi. Another ten members of the unit were allegedly killed on Wednesday.

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Topping Israel’s most-wanted list are Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif and political leader Yahya Sinwar, both of whom are said to be hiding out in a network of reinforced tunnels beneath Gaza.

The IDF responded to the Hamas incursion by bombing Gaza with an intensity never before seen in its history, leveling entire neighborhoods and killing upwards of 4,300 Palestinians as of Sunday. 

West Jerusalem’s retaliation has elicited alarm from international organizations, including the United Nations, where human rights experts have accused Netanyahu’s government of violating international humanitarian and criminal law by depriving the civilian population of water, food, fuel, medicine, and other critical supplies. 

Even Israel’s allies in the US, who have pledged billions of dollars in military aid and sent carrier groups, missile batteries and thousands of troops to the area to menace its enemies, have urged it to exercise restraint. A planned Israeli ground invasion of Gaza has been delayed to allow the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza in the hope of securing the release of more hostages. 

Two of the hostages, an American mother and daughter from Chicago who were visiting a kibbutz in Israel when they were abducted, were released into custody of the Red Cross on Friday. Hamas on Saturday named two more it was willing to release in the same manner, an offer Netanyahu’s office rejected as “false Hamas propaganda” aimed at quelling Israel’s military response. 

Every member of Hamas is a dead man,” Netanyahu warned in a televised address several days after the attack. Promising to “wipe out the Hamas organization and dismantle it of all its capabilities,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned members on Wednesday that they had “two options: either die in their positions or surrender unconditionally.”


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