IDF: We questioned 300 terror operatives; others from Gaza willingly providing intel on Hamas

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Footage released by the IDF on November 20, 2023, of an interrogation of a Gazan terror suspect by the Shin Bet security service. (Screen capture/IDF)
Footage released by the IDF on November 20, 2023, of an interrogation of a Gazan terror suspect by the Shin Bet security service. (Screen capture/IDF)

The IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate’s Unit 504 — which specializes in HUMINT (human intelligence) — has questioned a total of some 500 Palestinians and has made millions of calls to civilians to evacuate northern Gaza since the beginning of the fighting in the Strip.

Dozens of Arabic-speaking Unit 504 soldiers are on the ground in the Gaza Strip, alongside the combat units, carrying out field interrogations and providing intelligence to forces. Unit 504 has doubled its personnel amid the fighting, and established a new sub-unit specifically for southern Israel.

The IDF in a statement says it has established a detention facility in southern Israel to bring detainees from the Gaza Strip for questioning.

So far, some 300 terror operatives — from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other groups — and suspects have been brought to the facility for interrogation, the IDF says.

It says that the terror operatives and suspects provided the interrogators with the locations of Hamas tunnel networks and weapons depots, as well as detailing the terror group’s methods of operation, including their use of human shields.

“Each and every investigation leads to the incrimination of new sites, and the human intelligence that emerges… is an inseparable layer of the complete intelligence picture,” says a senior Unit 504 officer.

The IDF publishes three videos showing detainees detailing to Unit 504 interrogators Hamas’s use of hospitals for terror purposes. The men describe how they hid at Shifa and Rantisi hospitals, the Red Crescent building, and other medical centers, while Hamas used the sites to fight against the IDF.

Unit 504 also has sources in the Gaza Strip that have been providing information that is translated into intelligence for the ground forces.

“We received thousands of phone calls from [Palestinians willing to provide information] at a magnitude never before seen in the unit. It is evident that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not satisfied with the barbaric behavior of Hamas, the ordinary citizen understands that Hamas is bringing a disaster on the residents of Gaza that will be difficult for them to recover from,” the senior officer adds.

As part of the IDF’s efforts to evacuate Palestinians from northern Gaza amid the ground offensive, Unit 504 has made more than 30,000 calls, sent more than 10 million text messages, and more than nine million recorded messages to Gazan civilians. The IDF has also dropped some four million leaflets warning Palestinians of the dangers of staying in northern Gaza.

The IDF says the evacuation from northern Gaza allows it to carry out heavier strikes and operate more widely in the area against Hamas infrastructure. Airstrikes still continue in southern Gaza at the same time, with only the small al-Mawasi area along the coast declared by the IDF as a “safe zone.”

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