Though many Israelis underestimate its capabilities, Hamas actually has sophisticated computer and networking resources in terror tunnels to detect the presence of IDF troops and to automatically fire rockets and missiles at Israeli targets — and a rich sponsor is helping them.
It’s Gulf oil powerhouse Qatar, says Aviad Dadon of Israeli cyber-security firm AdoreGroup. “The Qataris have invested hundreds of millions in both defensive and offensive cyber capabilities,” said Dadon. “We have sourced 70% of the cyber-attacks on Israeli government sites in recent weeks to IP addresses associated with Qatar.”
Dadon was speaking in an interview on Israel Radio Thursday morning, presenting an aspect of Operation Protective Edge that few Israelis were aware of — the extensive use Hamas has made of computer and networking systems in its war against Israel. Not only is Qatar footing the bill, it also trained Hamas terrorists how to use sophisticated equipment and systems to manage its extensive terror tunnel system, as well, systems to fire rockets at Israel using automatic, timed launching systems.
“Qatar looks at this war between Israel and Hamas as a proving ground,” said Dadon, a senior cyber-security adviser at several Israeli government ministries. “They are taking lessons from the performance of their cyber-equipment and will improve them even further for the next war, which will be even more cyber-oriented than this one.”
According to Dadon, Hamas has embedded sophisticated network systems inside its terror tunnels, giving operatives in command and control centers the ability to monitor events in any of the tunnels. Using sensors and other networked equipment, terrorists can quickly be notified if an IDF unit is advancing in a tunnel, allowing them to disperse quickly — and allowing the command and control staff to set off explosives when soldiers approach a booby trap.
In addition, he said, Hamas has automated its rocket firing system using networked, cloud-based launching software provided by Qatar. “They can set off a rocket from any distance, and set them to go off at a specific time, using timers,” Dadon said. “Anyone who thinks they have dozens of people sitting next to launchers firing rockets each time there is a barrage is mistaken.”
Besides the assistance Qatar gives Hamas, hackers hired by the Gulf kingdom have been busy hitting Israeli government and infrastructure sites, trying to disrupt the operations of electricity, water, and other critical systems, said Dadon. “They are at the top of the (target) pyramid in the use of cyber-technology for terrorist purposes,” he said, adding that Israel has successfully defended its infrastructure with its own sophisticated cyber-security technology.
While Doha is allowing Hamas to use its technology to fight Israel, it’s their own cyber-security the leaders of Qatar are worried about. “For them, the war between Israel and Hamas is a proving ground to see how their investments in cyber systems have paid off,” Dadon said. Qatar is very worried that one of its Gulf rivals — specifically Saudi Arabia — will use technology to attack it, and Qatar spends a great deal of money each year on shoring up its cyber-technology.
Politics is behind Qatar’s willingness to pay for Hamas’ cyber-system. The Saudis believe that Qatar is behind efforts to unseat the Saudi royal family — using social media and the Al-Jazeera satellite channel — and Riyadh earlier this year recalled its ambassador to Doha, after he refused to pledge that it would “not interfere in others’ internal affairs,” according to Eli Aviad, who formerly headed Israel’s Economic Liaison office in Qatar. Speaking on Israel Radio, Aviad said that “Israel and Hamas are a ‘playground’ for Qatar. Qatar already spends billions each year on cyber-security, and in recent years that spending has gone up substantially.” While they are primarily interested in cyber self-defense, Aviad said, they are also interested in assisting their Muslim Brotherhood allies — and hence their willingness to fund the Hamas terror program. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The US is aware of what is going on, but Qatar has spent a lot of money to ensure it has a good relationship with Washington — witness Secretary of State John Kerry’s insistence that Qatar be included in negotiations on a cease-fire in Gaza. What does Qatar have to do with this? Unfortunately, as long as Qatar has billions to spend on Al-Jazeera, terror tunnels, and US weapons systems, there is little Israel is going to be able to stop Doha.”