For the past nine days – the entire duration of Operation Protective Edge – the IDF's special units have been operating on the ground in Gaza. Part of that activity was revealed when Shayetet 13 soldiers were injured last week, but most of the operations remain under the fog of war.
Israeli Navy operations included dozens of Shayetet fighters, both regular servicemen and reservists who were called up. A senior source in the navy said that the Shayetet soldiers were targeting terrorists who were protecting a long-range rocket launcher, from which salvos were fired on Haifa and the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
The Israeli Air Force destroyed launchers hidden in an orchard near a Gaza beach, while the Shayetet fighters clashed with the terrorists.
"They were observing us and we were observing them. The clashes were from short range and included the (terrorists) throwing explosive devices on our soldiers," said the source.
"On their side were many casualties, including six deaths. The aim of the operations is to feel exposed 360 degrees, from every direction."
The Israeli Navy has recorded more than 20 attacks on terror targets from the sea during Operation Protective Edge, including on the homes of senior Hamas members, terrorist command and control centers, and Hamas military bases as well as the Gaza coast guard police.
The navy has dozens of sea-faring vessels operating near the shores of the Gaza strip, including missile boats and patrol boats. "We are prepared for a situation of anti-tank missile fire towards our vessels and are also taking into account the possibility of shore-to-sea missiles," said the source.
The troops were part of the force that killed the five Hamas commandos which tried to infiltrate into Israel by sea last week.
The senior navy source revealed the details of the operation. "We waited for them with heavy military presence and using many observation measures. A tank and a Dvora-class patrol boat participated in thwarting the attack."
"They dove about two kilometers using diving gear until they reached the beach, ran for a nearby bush, and until we locked on to them and isolated the area – we operated slowly and safely to prevent a two-sided incident."
According to the source, in comparison to previous operations undertaken by Hamas, the terrorist organization drew several lessons from the past and improved its capabilities.