The Palestinian terror group Hamas is seeking undersea routes to strike the Jewish state, The Times of Israel reported Saturday.
“We see rearming on every level on the sea-front — systems, weapons and trainings. Hamas sees the sea as an option to achieve its aggressive, operational ambitions,” said Maj. Irad Shtatar, commander of the Ashdod Observation Company, the division of the Israeli Navy charged with tracking Hamas’ efforts to launch naval attacks. The company is made up entirely of female soldiers.
Hamas’ attempts to smuggle weapons by sea have decreased, Shtatar told the Times. He attributed this to efforts by the Israeli Navy, as well as Hamas’ collaboration with the Islamic State to smuggle weapons from the Sinai Peninsula.
The Ashdod Observation Company tracks Hamas’ activities both above and below water. “Hamas is making serious developments in the underwater domain,” Shtatar said, though he did not specify weapons or tactics. It employs “advanced optical cameras and radar” and monitors boats entering and exiting Ashdod port, as well as Israel’s commercial shipping lanes, to guard against possible terror attacks.
During the previous two years, Israel has interdicted numerous attempts to smuggle wetsuits and other scuba gear into Gaza. Hamas even attempted to infiltrate Israel by sea on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
As part of its lawful blockade of Gaza to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Hamas-ruled territory, Israel has imposed a 6-mile limit on Gazan fishing boats. Israel extended the limit last year during the spring fishing season and intends to do so again this year. Extending the limit in the fall was also considered, but the Shin Bet accused Hamas of abusing the leeway to smuggle weapons.
In the north, Israel is also preparing to thwart any attempts by Hezbollah to launch terror attacks by sea.
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