The recent Israeli Air Force strike on a Hamas police coastguard post illustrated the dual nature of the Palestinian security force operatives, many of whom also serve in Hamas’ military-terrorist wing. The coastguard apparatus has been involved in anti-IDF military activities unrelated to its naval police functions.
1. On November 14, 2011, in response to the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory the previous day, the Israeli Air Force attacked a Hamas coast guard police post in the northern part of Gaza City, as reported by the Palestinian media. The attack killed Muhammed Zaher al-Kilani, a coast guardsman, and wounded four other Palestinians (Wafa News Agency, November 14, 2011).
2. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, issued an official statement of the death of one of their operatives (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, November 14, 2011). Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, who attended al-Kilani’s funeral, accused Israel of violating the lull in the fighting and said that there was no official lull agreement with Israel, only the Palestinian commitment to the Egyptians (BBC, November 14, 2011).
The final section of the announcement, according to which Muhammad al-Kilani was killed in a strike on the police coast guard post in the Al-Sudaniya district, to the northwest of Gaza City.
3. Hamas’ police coastguard apparatus was established after Hamas’ violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Many of its operatives also belong to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades and have military-terrorist duties which bear no relation to the naval policing functions. In addition, the coastguard has been involved in operational activities against the IDF unrelated to its stated naval policing functions. Operatives belonging to the naval police guard and Hamas’ other security services often have double identities, manifesting the extensive cooperation between them and Hamas’ military-terrorist wing.
4. The police coastguard apparatus, in whose post an Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operative was recently killed, has been involved in operational activities against the IDF not related to its stated functions, for example: fighting the IDF during operations carried out in the Gaza Strip, placing IEDs, anti-aircraft fire at Israeli Air Force planes, collecting intelligence, providing logistic support for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, ambushing IDF forces, etc. In addition, it formerly also had a suicide bomber unit and was equipped with advanced IEDs, RPGs and mortars1.
5. One of the greatest failures of the Goldstone Report was that it disregarded the double identities of the operatives of the Hamas police and its other security forces. The Report claimed that the police and the other internal security forces (with the exception of the national security apparatus) were civilian in nature. One of the consequences was that the Report claimed that the 248 police cadets killed in Operation Cast Lead were entirely civilian.2 On that basis the Report based its thesis (which Judge Goldstone has since recanted)3 that Israel deliberately attacked the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and was thus guilty of so-called “war crimes” against Palestinian civilians.
6. However, reliable intelligence information, which included the March 2010 Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center response to the Goldstone Report, refuted the Report’s thesis. The information proved that a large number Hamas policemen and other internal security forces’ operatives also concurrently served in its military-terrorist wing (the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades). As part of their double duties, the operatives were involved in ongoing fighting against the IDF before, during and after Operation Cast Lead. Their names and pictures appeared on memorial posters which explicitly stated that they served in both the security forces and the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.