Defense establishment sources doubt Palestinian groups' claims of ability to target strategic facilities at sea, but say potential threat being taken seriously
Security source said Monday night that the explosives which drifted onto Israel's southern shoreline, and were later claimed by Palestinian groups, indicated their growing motivation to launch terror attacks against Israeli targets.
Early Monday evening, an explosive device was discovered floating just off Hofit beach in Ashkelon. Several hours later, a second device was found on Kshatot beach in Ashdod. According to the police, both explosive devices – weighing several dozen pounds each – were found hidden in barrels. They were similar in makeup and originated from Gaza Strip.
The sources doubted the Palestinian groups' supposed intention to target strategic Israeli facilities at sea, but said that nevertheless, such a threat was seriously considered.
The failed attack, said a defense establishment source, followed the scheme of sending out several sea-mines, which are designed to float until a collision with a vessel triggers them. "Gaza's terror groups don't really have any actual (sea-mine) capability, but given arms smuggling through the Gaza tunnels, they can upgrade the threat," he added.
Earlier, a senior member in one of the Palestinian organizations confirmed that the two explosive devices found on beaches in southern Israel were meant to be used in a future terror attack on an oil rig in the south.
The confirmation verified various concerns in the defense establishment, that Palestinian groups will try targeting a strategic facility in Israel. The Police National Headquarters ordered a full canvass of the shoreline, and heightened police presence is expected on all beaches. The Beaches in Israel's south will remain closed to the public on Tuesday, for swimmers and fishermen alike.
A senior Palestinian source told Ynet earlier that the attacks were planned as a joint operation of Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' Salah a-Din Brigades and the Nabil Masud group, which is affiliated with Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
The attack, he added, was to be in retaliation of "Israel's continuous crimes," and the Dubai assassination of Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's, for which the groups hold Israel responsible.
Sources in Gaza also told Ynet that Palestinian groups have recently began practicing underwater shooting and testing explosives at sea, and that the al-Quds Brigades have conducted training to that effect over the past few days.
According to the source, a special unit made up of operatives of all three groups, was able to launch four explosive devices to Ashkelon by sea overnight Saturday. Each device, said the source, was supposed to be detonated by remote control. One of the devices had been detonated, he added.
Israel Police have temporarily barred civilians from the Ashkelon and Ashdod beaches where the explosives were found.
Ali Waked contributed to this report
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