Israel has targeted bases used by Hamas’ commando force Nukhba, which led the incursion into southern Israel and carried out the first wave of the massacre. Nukhba is a special forces unit within the Hamas military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the Gaza Strip. The group is known for its high level of training and reports from 2017 that some of its men abandoned their ranks to join the Islamic State.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a wave of strikes targeting Nukhba elite forces, striking operational command centres used by operatives who infiltrated the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip last Saturday.
Israel has pledged to eliminate all members of Nukhba, potentially involved in the defense of the Gaza Strip, in the event of an Israeli ground invasion. Experts familiar with Palestinian terror groups say Nukhba had similar levels of training to Hizbollah’s Radwan forces, which specialize in covert attacks on northern Israel at the border.
The FDD, a Washington think tank, claims that Nukhba troops carried the coffins of senior Hamas members, indicating their high ranking within the organization. Nukhba likely had specific training in infiltrating small towns and kibbutzim in the border region, potentially breaching towns like Sderot. FDD analyst Joe Truzman posted footage of Nukhba forces in battle with Israeli soldiers, showing heavy gunfire but difficult to identify figures firing rifles.
A 2017 report in the Independent reported that Nukhba gunmen had been defecting from Hamas to Islamic State in the Sinai region, including specialists in anti-tank missile firing and bomb making. The IDF has also posted images of Islamic State flags found at massacre scenes in southern Israel.
Islamic State remains active in Sinai, but its numbers have decreased due to heavy fighting with the Egyptian army. Pro-Hamas channels circulated an image from 2014 showing the faces of two Nukhba members killed during the Gaza war.
It is unclear whether any Nukhba members were killed in the IDF strike on its bases. Retired Israeli general Giora Eiland doubts the effectiveness of air strikes on Gaza, as many commanders and terrorists are hiding in tunnels. Hamas has built a vast network of tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip, some running for dozens of kilometers.