The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have revealed details of operations carried out on the ground in the Gaza Strip by Unit 504 of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, a human resources version of the Mossad. This unit has interrogated around 500 Palestinians and made millions of calls to civilians to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip since the start of fighting in the Strip, Israeli media reports.
Israel continues the ground operation in the Gaza Strip PHOTO EPA-EFE
Dozens of Arabic-speaking Unit 504 soldiers are on the ground in the Gaza Strip alongside combat units, conducting field interrogations and providing information to the armed forces, the Times of Israel reports. Unit 504 has doubled its staff and established a new sub-unit specifically for southern Israel since the unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7.
So far, about 300 operatives (from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups) as well as suspects have been brought to a new detention center in southern Israel for questioning, the Israeli military revealed.
The IDF statement also states that agents and suspected terrorists provided investigators with the locations of Hamas’ tunnel networks and weapons caches, as well as details of the terrorist group’s methods of operation, including the use of human shields.
Evidence that Hamas terrorists were operating from hospitals
Unit 504, the Mossad’s version of human espionage, has been vital in exposing the misuse of hospitals for a variety of terrorist and military purposes, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The details were previously provided to a small group of military reporters, but have been kept secret until now for operational reasons.
In a recording of an interrogation of a Palestinian who was at Shifa hospital, he stated that there were many Hamas forces there, which disturbed the medical staff, who were aware of their presence.
The Hamas terrorist estimated that he personally saw between 80-100 terrorists.
He stated that Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters were “camouflaged” in the gowns of medical personnel, including using the emergency room for their activities.
Another Palestinian, Hamdoah Riad Assad Samlah, told how Hamas fighters used the 50,000 Palestinian civilians sheltering in the huge Palestinian Red Crescent Society building in Gaza as human shields.
He explained that no one opposed them, or he would risk being killed.
Furthermore, he added that Hamas members wrapped their rockets in blankets to hide them from the IDF and that they fired frequently from around the hospital.
Another Palestinian told Unit 504 that he saw over 100 Hamas terrorists controlling the Rantisi hospital in Gaza, divided into tents of about five to six people per tent.
He said he was also in a hospital known as the Swedish Hospital, where he saw at least seven Hamas terrorists. Although they were dressed in civilian clothes, he said he knew one of them personally and the rest were armed.
The Israeli military also revealed that – after a hiatus of more than a decade – Unit 504 has re-established a new center and unit dedicated to Gaza-related issues, as well as security on Israel’s southern border.
To that end, it has doubled in size since the start of the Israel-Gaza war, including some of the IDF’s best-trained reservists.
Until the start of the war on October 7, Unit 504 focused more on Lebanon, Syria and other countries in the Middle East.
For example, this unit’s involvement in providing medical assistance and infrastructure for Syrian militias on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights during the Syrian Civil War in the 2010s was previously reported by the Jerusalem Post and other Israeli publications.
In addition, the IDF said that Unit 504 has interrogated more than 500 terrorists since October 7 and arrested more than 300 of them since the beginning of the ground invasion in Gaza.
The Israeli military further stated that Unit 504 helped flag 300 terrorist sites, over 100 of which were later attacked by various Israeli military forces.
Over 300 Hamas terrorists were captured and taken to Israel
A senior commander of Unit 504 stated: “To date, we have arrested more than 300 terrorists in the invasion, who have been taken to Israel for prolonged interrogation. The information that emerged from the interrogation of these prisoners was of tremendous value, leading to the elimination of other terrorists and the increased security of our forces.”
The senior officer added that his unit had received thousands of calls from Palestinians in Gaza wanting to help them with information or otherwise cooperate against Hamas, on a “magnitude we have never seen before”. “It seems that the residents of Gaza are unhappy with the barbaric behavior of Hamas,” the statement added.
To carry out these many missions, dozens of Arabic-speaking field agents are spread across all Gaza combat zones at the division, brigade and battalion levels.
Unit 504 personnel in Gaza often interrogate terrorists in real-time to assist IDF forces in their immediate combat maneuvers, as well as to find Hamas sensitive locations on the streets of Gaza.
The information obtained in the interrogations was particularly useful in locating Hamas’ tunnel network, its method of operation and the ways in which Hamas tried to lose itself in civilian locations or the civilian population, the IDF said.
Unit 504 also played a leading role in persuading the vast majority of Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south.
They did this by sending more than 10 million electronic messages, nine million recorded messages and more than 30,000 phone calls made by officers trained not only in fluent Arabic but also in cultural connection with the Palestinians; but also through various psychological campaigns and on social networks. At the same time, approximately four million leaflets were released urging Palestinian civilians to flee south.
In one case, the IDF learned from Palestinian civilians about a Hamas outpost that was preventing them from evacuating and was able to use this information to remove Hamas forces that were interfering with the departures.