Israeli attack against Hamas cyber headquarters in Gaza (2019)

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Date On 4 May 2019, an airstrike was conducted against a building that housed Hamas cyber operatives in Gaza.[1]
Suspected actor Israel. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officially announced having targeted a building where the Hamas cyber operatives had worked, in retaliation for an earlier cyber operation launched by Hamas.[2]
Target Building located in Gaza which housed Hamas’ cyber headquarters.[1]
Target systems N/A
Method Kinetic operation. After having stopped the attempted cyber attack launched by Hamas through non-kinetic means, the IDF retaliated with an air strike against a building that housed Hamas cyber operatives.[2]
Purpose Retaliation and deterrence.[3] The airstrike was conducted in retaliation for an attempted cyber attack carried out by Hamas, in the context of an escalation of violence between Israeli forces and Hamas.[4]
Result The air strike partially destroyed the building that housed Hamas’ cyber headquarters.[5] An IDF’s spokesperson said that “Hamas no longer has cyber capabilities after our strike”.[6] No official information was found about whether the air strike resulted in casualties among Hamas members and/or civilians.
Aftermath The attack raised particular attention as the first case of a publicly announced kinetic attack used as immediate response to a non-kinetic operation during an armed conflict.[7]
Analysed in Scenario 18: Legal status of cyber operators during armed conflict

Collected by: Giulia Carlini

  1. 1.0 1.1 C Cimpanu, “In a first, Israel responds to Hamas hackers with an air strike”, 5 May 2019, ZDNet.
  2. 2.0 2.1 IDF’s Twitter post of 5 May 2019.
  3. Cyber Defense Project (CDP) and Center for Security Studies (CSS) ETH Zürich, “Israel’s National Cybersecurity and  Cyberdefense Posture”, 2020, at 12.
  4. V Romo, "Netanyahu Orders Continued Pounding In Gaza As 600 Rockets Fired Into Israel", 5 May 2019, NPR.
  5. DM Halbfinger, I Kershner, “After Intense Fighting in Gaza, Israel and Palestinians Observe Ceasefire”, 5 May 2019, The New York Times.
  6. Z Doffman, “Israel Responds To Cyber Attack With Air Strike On Cyber Attackers In World First”, 6 May 2019, Forbes.
  7. L Hay Newman, “What Israel's Strike on Hamas Hackers Means For Cyberwar”, 6 May 2019, Wired; R Chesney, “Crossing a Cyber Rubicon? Overreactions to the IDF’s Strike on the Hamas Cyber Facility”, 6 May 2019, Lawfare Blog.