"We will take the settlements bordering Gaza. In any future war, the enemy must expect groups behind enemy lines to enter and control those settlements," said a commander of one of the terrorist groups in Gaza to the Lebanese Al Akhbar newspaper on Wednesday.
The commander added that scuba units will also play a "very important role" in an upcoming conflict.
Israel has recently completed the construction of an underwater barrier to prevent infiltration from Gazan commando scuba units.
During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, five Hamas frogmen tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim. Armed with automatic weapons, fragmentation grenades and several types of explosive devices, they were engaged and killed by the IDF in a combined attack from the sea, ground and air.
In 2015, the IDF began deploying dozens of sensors as part of a new system named “Aqua Shield,” which can detect and alert the navy to suspicious underwater movement. The sensors were placed on the sea floor near both Gaza and Lebanon’s water borders with Israel.
The last round of fighting in May is a "slight fraction of what the enemy might face in the future, especially since this round exposed Israeli weaknesses," said the Palestinian commander.
These "weaknesses" include the ability to target the Iron Dome batteries directly and the ability to target IDF soldiers by dropping bombs from Gazan drones, which the Gazan commander claimed Israeli intelligence did not know about until they were put into action.
One of the most significant lessons that the Gazan terrorist groups learned from the 48-hour escalation in May, is that the Iron Dome could be overcome and even targeted directly in some places. According to the commander, 700 rockets were fired in the last round of fighting, with the Iron Dome only succeeding to intercept 240 rockets. The terror groups in Gaza found that, "if shells are fired from areas close to the [Gaza] border, there is a weakness in the [Iron Dome's] response," the commander told Al Akhbar.
The terrorist groups also found that if more than 10 rockets are fired at once, the Iron Dome's performance is also weakened – but that the rockets must be fired in a period of no longer than five minutes for this to work. They implemented this practice by launching "very heavy bursts of rockets – up to dozens of rockets in one burst – towards one target," in order to allow one or two missiles to get past the Iron Dome and hit residential areas, he said.
The commander claimed that the success of this practice was reflected in the amount of damage and number of casualties caused by Gazan rockets in Israeli cities and towns.
Five Israeli deaths were attributed to the last round of fighting, and 21 rockets hit civilian homes.
The commander also claimed to know the exact locations where the Iron Dome batteries have been deployed.
Earlier this year, former deputy military intelligence chief, Brig.Gen. Meir Elran, said that while “Iron Dome has proven to be an effective means of saving lives, which also improves the flexibility of decision makers in Israel,” it is clear that the system as currently constituted cannot provide Israel with sufficient protection in the event of a wider conflict.
Uzi Rubin, one of the pioneers of Israel’s earliest attempts at missile defense, told JTA that based on the publicly available data, it appears that the Palestinians “tried to tax the system as much as they could, but the system as a whole held well.”
The commander also addressed the Kornet anti-tank missiles that were used in the last round of fighting, which resulted in the death of Israeli civilian Moshe Feder, when Gazan terrorists fired a Kornet missile at his car outside of Sderot. Hamas apparently also tried to use Kornet missiles to target an Israeli armored vehicle, but missed.
Hamas also used drones to gather intelligence on the movements of IDF forces during the last round of fighting, according to the commander.
Arms shipments have continued to enter the Gaza Strip despite Israeli and Egyptian attempts to prevent this, and arms manufacturing continues. The commander admitted that arms shipments were impacted by ISIS in the Sinai Desert, but told Al Akhbar that the Palestinian terrorist groups conducted "security operations" in response targeting ISIS.
Israeli losses were estimated at 60 million shekels, the commander told Al Akhbar.
The publication reported on Wednesday that Israel attempted to conduct "soft assassinations" of Gazan terrorists after the botched operation in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip last November, including an attempt to poison a senior commander in Gaza and another attempt to assassinate a military official with a parcel bomb. Both attempts were detected and prevented by Gazan terrorist groups, according to the newspaper.
The November raid in Khan Yunis left an IDF lieutenant-colonel dead and another officer moderately injured. Six Hamas terrorists, including Khan Yunis commander Nur Barakeh, were also killed in the firefight.
According to an investigation into the incident, the exchange of fire between Hamas and the IDF lasted about a minute and a half. Following the shootout, it was decided to call in an air force helicopter to extract all the soldiers, including the dead officer.
Israel is also pursuing prisoners who were freed in the deal that freed IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, according to Al Akhbar, especially those who live in the Gaza Strip.
The paper also claimed that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) was attempting to recruit agents in Gaza by extorting them or offering financial incentives.
Anna Ahronheim and Sam Sokol/JTA contributed to this report.
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