Israeli intelligence agencies, Mossad and Shin Bet, have joined forces to create a new operations group called Nili, aimed at targeting members of the Hamas commando unit responsible for the recent surprise attack on Israel. This group is named after a Jewish spy ring from the early 20th century that supported the British against the Ottomans in Palestine during World War I. The objective of Nili is to locate and eliminate every member of Hamas’ elite Nukbha force involved in the deadly raid, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 Israelis and the capture of 210 hostages. Nili stands for “the Eternal One of Israel will not lie” in Hebrew.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, airstrikes have already killed two Nukbha commanders: Billal al-Qedra, the battalion commander of Khan Younis, and Ali Qadhi, the company commander. Additionally, ten alleged members of the unit were killed on Wednesday.
The two top targets on Israel’s most-wanted list are Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif and political leader Yahya Sinwar. It is believed that they are hiding in a network of fortified tunnels beneath Gaza.
In response to the Hamas incursion, the IDF launched an intense bombing campaign on Gaza, causing significant destruction. As of Sunday, the death toll of Palestinians reached over 4,300. This retaliation by West Jerusalem has raised concerns from international organizations, including the United Nations. Human rights experts have accused the Netanyahu government of violating international humanitarian and criminal law by preventing the civilian population from accessing essential supplies such as water, food, fuel, and medicine.
Even the United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has called for restraint. They have provided billions of dollars in military aid and deployed military assets to the region, but they have urged Israel to exercise caution. Israel had planned a ground invasion of Gaza but delayed it to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and secure the release of more hostages.
On Friday, an American mother and daughter from Chicago, who were visiting Israel when abducted, were released and placed in the custody of the Red Cross. Hamas also offered to release two more hostages similarly, but this offer was rejected by Netanyahu’s office as “false Hamas propaganda” aimed at trying to quell Israel’s military response.
In a televised address, Netanyahu declared that “every member of Hamas is a dead man.” He promised to dismantle the Hamas organization and eliminate all its capabilities. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant echoed this sentiment, warning Hamas members that they had two options: to die in their positions or to surrender unconditionally.
The formation of the Nili operations group reflects Israel’s determination to track down and neutralize the individuals responsible for the attack on their country. However, the high number of casualties and destruction caused by Israel’s response has drawn criticism from international bodies and even its allies, raising concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.