According to the Middle East Newsline, Israeli military sources say Hamas has converted fishing boats into unmanned attack vessels to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, in cooperation with such militias as Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, have fitted the boats with explosives as well as remote-control devices.
“First, Hamas tried to use remote-controlled rafts or rowboats,” an Israeli military source said. “When that didn’t work, they moved to larger vessels.”
The report follows an attempted Monday attack against an Israeli patrol vessel off Gaza.
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The sources said the boat, which contained hundreds of pounds of explosives, was directed by remote control to head from the Gaza Strip toward Israel.
An Israel Navy patrol boat followed the Palestinian vessel for about an hour, the sources said.
There were no Israeli injuries or damage reported in Monday’s attack.
The assembly of the unmanned explosive boat appeared to be part of Hamas plans to attack an Israeli coastal facility, such as the Israeli beaches located two miles north of Gaza.
This marked the first Palestinian vessel bombing off the Gaza coast since 2003. In 2002, four Israeli commandos were injured when a Palestinian boat blew up near an Israel Navy patrol craft.
As a result, the Israel Navy has intensified patrols along the Gaza coast and has been firing on suspicious fishing boats.
Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said the unmanned explosive boat marked a new Hamas tactic in the wake of Israel’s incursion into Gaza.
“I think that Hamas has been intimidated, and it is not by chance that there is no direct firing,” Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi said. “We know that hostile terror activities or terror attacks along the security fence – by sea or through the Sinai – are still taking place, and therefore we examine and adjust our arrangements constantly.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org