IDF says it thwarted underwater drone attack by Hamas from northern Gaza

Military destroys autonomous submarine before it leaves the coast and strikes car used by Hamas operatives who launched it; no details on target of attempted attack

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An aerial view of the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon.
An aerial view of the Israeli Tamar gas processing rig 24 kilometers off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon.

The Hamas terror group attempted to attack Israeli naval assets with an autonomous submarine from northern Gaza on Monday, the Israeli military said, adding that it destroyed the device shortly after launch and struck the team that operated it.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, a number of operatives from the Gaza-ruling terror group were seen approaching the shore with the device and putting it in the water.

While the small autonomous underwater drone was still close to the shore, an Israeli Navy vessel destroyed the device, and an IDF aircraft attacked the operatives that launched it “in order to thwart the threat,” the military said.

Hamas has for years been believed to be developing autonomous submarines. The Israeli Navy believes that the models in the terror group’s arsenals are guided by GPS and capable of carrying some 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of explosives. Such weapons could be directed against targets both out at sea and along Israel’s coastline.

Video footage released by the IDF showed both the strike on the autonomous submarine as it was in the water off the northern Gaza coast and the attack the attack on a vehicle used by the Hamas operatives.

The military did not specify what it believes was the target of the submarine drone, saying only that it was launched toward “the State of Israel’s maritime territory.”

In addition to Israeli Navy ships, which have in the past been targeted by terror groups, the Chevron petrochemical company operates the Tamar natural gas rig off Israel’s southern coast, which Hamas has unsuccessfully attempted to hit with rocket fire over the past eight days of fighting.

As rockets produced in the Strip are not precision-guided munitions, they are highly unlikely to ever hit the rig, an exceedingly small target, from the coast. Yet in light of the threats to the extraction platform, which is protected by a ship-borne Iron Dome missile defense system and other air defenses, the rig’s operations have been halted at the order of Israel’s Energy Ministry and at the recommendation of the IDF.

Though Tamar was shuttered, a Chevron spokeswoman said operations were continuing at the larger Leviathan gas field off Israel’s northern shore. Tamar is 23 kilometers (14 miles) off the coast of Ashkelon, a southern city that has been pummeled by the ongoing rocket fire.

Earlier this week, the Israeli Navy boasted that it had successfully prevented all of Hamas’s attempts to use its naval capabilities against Israeli targets at sea and onshore and destroyed most of the terror group’s naval infrastructure and weaponry over the past week, including a number of autonomous submarines, though the military acknowledged that several more of the weapons were still likely in Hamas’s possession.

“The most significant thing, as in all of the IDF, is denying [the enemy] capabilities and establishing a strong defense. Therefore, we have attacked bases, vessels, weapons warehouses, infrastructure and operatives. We have acted so that the naval arms of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas would be depressed,” the head of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit told reporters on Sunday.

Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have fired upwards of 3,100 rockets at Israel since the outbreak of fighting on Monday, according to the IDF. Ten Israelis, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, have been killed in the rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured.

The Palestinian toll from the fighting surpassed 200 as of Monday, including dozens of children, with over 1,200 wounded, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, though Israel says that number is much higher and that at least 150 of those killed were terrorists. In addition, the IDF says some deaths were caused by errant rockets fired at Israel that fell short of their targets and landed in the Strip.

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