Lt. Col. Boris Schuster, the departing commander of the 916th Fleet, in charge of the protection of the maritime sphere between Israel and the Gaza Strip, said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth that Hamas's decision to concentrate on maritime efforts stems from its beleaguered position elsewhere and failures in other terror tactics.
“Terror organizations in the Gaza Strip understand that they are losing their strategic assets in light of tunnel closures and are focusing on establishing a strong naval commando unit,” he said.
The 916th Fleet has been focusing in recent months on thwarting Hamas’s continuous attempts to launch attacks on Israel via the sea, as the terror group pushes to build up its capabilities.
“Terror organization are practicing the use of quadcopters in order to bomb our Navy ships. Over the past six months we’ve been training and preparing for different scenarios. They have the capability to carry out a mass-casualty terror attack of this kind,” said Schuster.
According to officer, since the Operation Protective Edge in 2014 when Hamas’ naval unit attempted to infiltrate Israel’s maritime borders and carry out a terror attack on the Zikim beach, the organization has been working towards upgrading their naval commando unit.
“Their naval unit has improved immensely recently and they are training to carry out attacks in Israeli towns and to damage facilities. Today they’re one big, well-trained unit equipped with a variety of weapons and most of all, they have a lot of courage," he noted.
"We’re not indifferent to it. We’re trying to get into their heads and think how we would have acted in their place,” Shuster added.
Recently, the IDF destroyed Hamas’ first underwater terror tunnel and is prepared for more to come.
“We assess there are other underwater terror tunnels, but they’re also preparing other options such as boats and rafts packed with explosives, and floating explosive devices," he explained. "Today we can say we won’t encounter isolated attacks anymore but rather attempts to carry out attacks that involve several vessels storming one ship.”
Although Shuster admitted that there is a possibility “we could be surprised” by Hamas’ navy unit plans, he reassured that “southern border residents can sleep soundly at night. We’re investing great effort in securing the Israeli coast.”