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Amid a massive exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes between Israel and both Hamas and Islamic Jihad this weekend, Hamas attempted a cyber operation against an unspecified civilian target in Israel. The operation failed, and in its aftermath the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out an airstrike that destroyed the building housing Hamas’s cyber capability. Some observers are citing the incident as an important—and perhaps dangerous—precedent. Others are questioning the legality of the strike itself. Both these views are misplaced.
Details remain sketchy, but we know this much: Heavy fighting broke out last Friday in Gaza and Israel, with Islamic Jihad and Hamas launching more than 690 rockets and mortars indiscriminately into Israel, and Israel countering with some 320 targeted airstrikes. During these kinetic attacks, according to the commander of IDF cyber division, Hamas attempted to carry out some sort of cyber operation targeting Israeli civilian infrastructure in an unspecified fashion. The operation failed, apparently thwarted by the combined efforts of Unit 8200 and Shin Bet. And then the IDF conducted an airstrike on the building housing the Hamas cyber capability, destroying it and whatever equipment was within (and most likely killing at least some people as well, though I’ve not yet seen any reporting on that specific point).
Here’s an IDF tweet acknowledging the basic elements of the story:
CLEARED FOR RELEASE: We thwarted an attempted Hamas cyber offensive against Israeli targets. Following our successful cyber defensive operation, we targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives work.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) May 5, 2019
HamasCyberHQ.exe has been removed. pic.twitter.com/AhgKjiOqS7