GAZA CITY — Gaza’s Hamas rulers said on Tuesday that its security services had arrested dozens of Palestinians since an Israeli raid inside the Strip that went awry, accusing them of aiding the Jewish state.
The November 11 special forces operation, details of which the Israeli military has kept largely under gag order, turned deadly when the undercover soldiers were spotted near Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
The ensuing firefight claimed the lives of an Israeli army officer and seven Palestinian terrorists, including a local commander from Hamas’ military wing.
“The security services were able to arrest 45 agents after the security incident east of Khan Yunis last November and they are under investigation,” Hamas interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum said in a statement.
He did not say if any of those arrested were suspected of involvement in the November incident.
Following the Khan Younis shootout, Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, published photos of eight people and two vehicles it said were linked to the Israeli operation, prompting the Israeli army censor to appeal to the public and media not to republish the images.
“Hamas is attempting to understand and analyze the incident that occurred in Gaza on November 11 and any information, even if it seems harmless by those who distribute it, can endanger lives and put state security at risk,” the army said at the time.
Hamas, which launched a major investigation into the Israeli operation, did not identify those in the pictures.
The incident prompted Hamas to vow revenge and led to the deadliest escalation between the two sides since the 2014 war.
Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired some 460 rockets and mortar rounds at Israel, as well as an anti-tank missile that hit a bus Hamas says was being used by Israel’s army.
In all, some 27 Israelis were wounded, three of them severely.
A Palestinian laborer from the West Bank was killed when a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
Israel hit back with widespread airstrikes in the Gaza Strip that saw seven Palestinians killed in 24 hours.
A November 13 cease-fire brokered by Egypt ended the fighting that had raised fears of a fourth war between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Gaza since 2008.
In December a Gaza military court sentenced six people, including a woman, to death for “collaborating” with Israel.
But the interior ministry said they were not directly related to the November incursion.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 28 executions have been carried out in Gaza since Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007 from rival faction Fatah.
Hamas and its allies have fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.
Israel says the measure is necessary to isolate Hamas and prevent weapons from reaching the terror group; critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the territory’s two million residents.