By D. Bender
An Israeli army strike against a senior Hamas military leader in Gaza two weeks ago may have thwarted a deadly paraglider attack on Israel, the country’s Channel 2 News said Monday.
“It could have ended in disaster,” a senior Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency – ISA) offical said of the combined IDF-ISA air strike in Rafah on August 21st that killed Raed Attar, along with Muhammad Abu Shamalah and Muhammed Barhoum.
“Attar’s assassination has disrupted everything,” the official said of the Izzadin al-Kassam chief, who set up a 15-member paragliding squad four years ago.
“Attar and Rafa Salamah (Attar’s aide) made sure to send us to Malaysia to practice paragliding. We went through tunnels from Sinai to Cairo and then took a flight to Malaysia,” cell leader Mohammad Kadara, 28, confessed to Israeli interrogators, after his capture during Operation Protective Edge.
“We practiced in Malaysia for a week on motorized paragliders, and were trained by local instructors,” Kadara said.
The paragliding unit established by Hamas’s military wing was supposed to be the icing on the cake in terms of the organization’s military operations, which were looking for any way to surprise the IDF.
Attar reportedly kept close tabs on the unit, which trained for the deadly attacks at several Hamas facilities, including in a unit set up by Hamas suicide bombers.
In 2012, Attar sent the cell for three days of intensive training on bases in Khan Younis and Rafah.
“There, we trained on paragliding, marksmanship and firing Kalashnikov rifles, and underwent further training in Rafah in navigation. It was important that we learn to work properly to achieve the objectives the unit was tasked with,” Kadara said.
He added that the fighters were to be kitted out with rocket-propelled grenades, semi-automatic Kalashnikov rifles, and commando knives.
“The plans was to cross the border into Israel with a paraglider, reach an IDF post or settlement near the border, shoot at soldiers and civilians and kill as many Israelis as possible,” Kadara said.
“It’s vitally important that you succeed in carrying out the mission,” Attar told the cell members. “I’ll let you know when you go off and perform the operation,” Attar told them. “It is important for you to be ready at any moment to beat the Zionist enemy.”
Kadara later revealed how he commanded a suicide bombing unit.
“Our goal was to wait for the soldiers to attack tunnels, and then carry out suicide attacks,” Kadara said.
“Before I joined the operation in the Gaza Strip, I passed sniper training, and learned how to fire rockets and mortars,” he told investigators. “I got paid $300 per month for my activity, and practiced firing rockets at an IDF jeep and how to kidnap soldiers.”
Kadara also explained how two attack tunnels were built under an olive grove, that crossed the border into Israel.
“Our goal was to ambush the soldiers who would come to the scene, shoot them and detonate bombs. We planned to abduct soldiers and deliver them through the tunnels. We were two weeks in a tunnel with food: cartons of dates, bread and water. We were kept confidential, and were told not to reveal our activities to anyone,” he said. “An operative would update our families that we were all right.”
IDF troops captured Kadara, and seven cohorts in a firefight, according to the Shin Bet, and the IDF Prosecutor recently filed charges against the suspects in the Southern District Court in Beersheba.
Attar’s unit’s plans were reminiscent of a disastrous glider attack on Israel from Lebanon in November, 1987. Known in Israel since as the Night of the Gliders, two Palestinian terrorists attacked IDF forces stationed near Kiryat Shmona.
Troops succeeded in tracking down and killing one attacker, but the second was able to infiltrate a base, where he killed six soldiers and wounded eight others before troops shot him dead.