Israel’s tactics and targets in Gaza as it works through Hamas ‘kill list’ | THE TELEGRAPH UK

Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in “Israel’s tactics and targets in Gaza as it works through Hamas ‘kill list’”, an article by By James Rothwell in Berlin and Alfie Neville-Jones for The Telegraph.

Precision air strikes have so far killed several members of group but hunt continues for higher-ranking terrorists

“There is a saying in Israeli intelligence, that there is no man on this planet that can not be reached,” Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official, told the Telegraph.

He added that Israeli intelligence would rely on “creative imagination” to reach the most senior targets inside Gaza, but declined to give further details for security reasons.

“They’re operating in and taking advantage of a civilian environment and using them as a human shield,” said Mr Melamed, who also served as an adviser to Israeli officials during the First and Second Intifadas.

“They are also taking additional cautions – they’re hiding in tunnels under the ground and locating their activities in public facilities or apartments. It creates a challenge to establish what is a legitimate target and what is not.”

Through seven decades of warfare, Israeli spies have used hair-raising tactics to target their enemies: booby-trapped cars, poisoned toothpaste and even exploding books.

And in November 2020, as Israel launched a wave of covert attacks on Iran’s nuclear programme, a remote-controlled machine gun was hidden inside a truck near Tehran and used to assassinate the regime’s chief scientist.

Even Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi leader who was executed in 2006, was allegedly once the target of a book bomb planted by the shadowy Israeli spy network Mossad.

But in Gaza, where Israel is working its way through a so-called kill list of senior Hamas targets, the tools that it is relying on to locate and take out those responsible for the Oct 7 attacks are much more rudimentary.

Experts and former Israeli intelligence officers say that a key focus will be a triangle of intelligence expertise known as HUMINT, VISINT and SIGINT.

HUMINT refers to human intelligence, such as informants and spies on the ground, whereas VISINT – visual intelligence – denotes aerial surveillance. SIGINT refers to the interception of the enemy’s messages, such as listening in to mobile phone calls.

“There is a saying in Israeli intelligence, that there is no man on this planet that can not be reached,” Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official, told the Telegraph.

He added that Israeli intelligence would rely on “creative imagination” to reach the most senior targets inside Gaza, but declined to give further details for security reasons.

At the top of that list will be Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, and Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. A senior Israeli army spokesman has already declared Sinwar to be a “dead man walking”.

But they will be extremely difficult to reach, even with Gaza under siege.

Hamas commanders are constantly on the move within the Palestinian enclave, and may not have ventured to the surface since the war began – beneath Gaza, dozens of miles of tunnels have been dug in preparation for wars such as this.

Deif, which means guest in Arabic, in particular has a legendary reputation for never staying in the same place for more than one night, constantly rotating through different hideouts.

“They’re operating in and taking advantage of a civilian environment and using them as a human shield,” said Mr Melamed, who also served as an adviser to Israeli officials during the First and Second Intifadas.

“They are also taking additional cautions – they’re hiding in tunnels under the ground and locating their activities in public facilities or apartments. It creates a challenge to establish what is a legitimate target and what is not.”

If Israel’s kill list were to be presented as a deck of 52 cards – as was the case in the American invasion of Iraq – it has so far only managed to eliminate lower-ranking numbers.

Some are not actually part of Hamas and are instead affiliated with smaller groups that also played a role in the Oct 7 attacks.

So far there have been no ground operations within Gaza – at least none that are known.

The focus instead has been pummelling sites that may include key targets with precision air strikes.

On Thursday, Israel claimed to have killed Jehad Mheisen, the head of the Hamas national security forces, in an air strike that also killed a number of family members.

Earlier in the week, Israel also announced that it had killed Ayman Nofal, the commander of Hamas’s central armed division – also in an air strike.

The impact on Hamas’s operational capabilities is unclear, but it was a symbolic moment for Israel: the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that Nofal was a mastermind of the 2006 kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was eventually released from Gaza more than five years later in exchange for 1,000 Palestinian security prisoners.

Israel has also managed to reach at least two commanders from Nukhba, the elite force that spearheaded the Oct 7 attacks in Israel. The IDF has released footage showing an air strike that killed Bilal al Qadr and also says that it eliminated Ali Qadi in a similar attack.

An operation led by the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, located and killed Rafat Harev Hossein Abu Halal, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees’ (PRC) armed wing. The PRC is understood to be the third largest terrorist group in Gaza after Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

A female political leader was also among the targets: Jamila al-Shanti, who established Hamas’s women’s wing and was the first woman in the Hamas Politburo, was killed in an air strike earlier this week.

Mr Melamed said that killing such targets may affect morale in groups such as Hamas, but noted that “in the case of Isis, the heads were time and time again eliminated … what we saw was mostly that very quickly somebody else took their place”.

In some cases, a targeted killing can have major, long-term consequences for a terrorist group’s ability to plan and carry out future attacks, experts say, but it is rare.

“There are two examples,” said Mr Melamed. “Back in the nineties, the former leader of Islamic Jihad was assassinated in Malta. We saw a long period of time after that where Islamic Jihad was really struggling to recover, so to speak.”

“And the other example was the elimination of Major General Qassem Soleimani of the [Iranian elite] Quds Force. His replacement has been struggling and there has been an ongoing impact on the performance of the Quds.”


Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in “Israel’s tactics and targets in Gaza as it works through Hamas ‘kill list’”, an article by By James Rothwell in Berlin and Alfie Neville-Jones for The Telegraph.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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