Dubai: Hamas has shocked the Israelis by displaying new weapons in its arsenal that are more likely to hit morale rather than shed blood.
On Monday, showing off a new level of sophistication, the group allegedly sent disinformation text messages to Israeli mobile phones and aired footage captured deep inside Israel by its newly revealed drones.
Israeli authorities announced on Monday that a drone was shot down over the southern coastal city of Ashdod. Hamas later claimed responsibility for it, saying it sent three Ababil-1 model drones, and aired footage captured by the drones on its Al Aqsa TV. Crucially for the Israelis, the group claimed that one of its drones had penetrated Israeli airspace up to its commercial centre, Tel Aviv, where it took pictures of the Kirya military headquarters.
Also on Monday, thousands of Israelis received messages on their phones disguised as having been sent by Haaretz, one of the country’s biggest newspapers, warning of a chemical leak in Haifa. The text message read: “Rocket from Gaza hit petrochemical plant in Haifa, huge fire, possible chemical leak, advised to evacuate Haifa”. Israeli newspapers speculated that the messages had come from Hamas, but said there was no proof of that yet.
Another message sent by ‘SMSQASSAM’ read in Hebrew: “The stupidity of your leadership has turned all of Israel into a firing range, and forced Israelis to hide in bomb shelters. We will continue to bomb every place in Israel until all of our legitimate demands are completely met.”
29-year-old Sareena Denis told the Jerusalem Post that she was horrified by the false news about the chemical leak in Haifa.
“I was so worried, I was so scared. It was this realisation that the conflict escalated to a whole other level,” she told the paper.
Haaretz said that as soon as it was informed of the fake messages, it issued clarifications in Hebrew and English that the paper was not the source.
“I was relieved, but at the same time I was so upset, because it’s very disturbing to know that some hacker or Hamas has my phone number,” Denis said. “Something about having my emotions manipulated, it just felt like, as terrorists, they had really achieved their goals. I just started bawling when I realised what had happened,” she told the Post.
According to Haaretz, someone who claimed to belong to the Al Qassam Brigades had earlier claimed on Facebook to be holding the personal details of 5,000 Israeli officers and to have hacked their mobile phones. He threatened to disclose their details online but never delivered.
Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezz Al Deen Al Qassam Brigades, said that its engineers had manufactured and flown three types of the Ababil drones that are capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions, bombing missions and suicide missions, which involve the drone crashing into its target. According to US and Israeli media, the Hamas drones are variants of Iranian Ababil-1 drones.
According to Jane’s defence magazine, the Ababil has a maximum operational radius of 150km, a maximum ceiling of 4,268 metres, the ability to travel at a maximum speed of 300km/h and is capable of carrying a 45kg payload. It can play both a surveillance and attack role. The Lebanese group Hezbollah has used the drone against Israel in the past.