The Israel Security Agency, commonly called “Shin Bet,” launched a new specialized unit, NILI, to track down everyone involved in the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas gunmen on October 7.
According to reports, NILI’s sole mission will be to hunt down and eliminate every individual who played a role in the surprise dawn raid carried out from the Gaza Strip on communities and military bases in southern Israel.
During the attacks, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were murdered. Approximately 4,500 others were injured, and roughly 200 people are still being held in Gaza after being taken hostage by Hamas operatives.
In a press conference at Shura Base, outside of Tel Aviv, former chief military rabbi for the IDF, Rabbi Israel Weiss, described some of the horrific atrocities carried out by Hamas, including decapitations of children and people being burned alive.
“I cannot describe to you in words what it is like to see a pregnant woman who has had her stomach cut open and the baby pulled out,” Weiss told reporters. “We found bodies of elderly civilians. They had all their fingers and toes cut off. I only knew something like that from the Nazis.”
In a region plagued with conflict, the recent attack represents the bloodiest day in Israel’s 75 history and led to the Israeli government’s immediate declaration of war against Hamas.
Since October 7, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has pounded Hamas positions in Gaza with continuous airstrikes. The Palestinian Health Ministry has claimed that Israeli aerial bombardments have claimed the lives of more than 4,500 Palestinians. However, these figures cannot be independently verified.
In the last two weeks, Hamas and Iran-backed Quds Forces, including Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have responded by launching hundreds of in-direct rockets at Israeli cities.
The IDF has already said that a ground invasion of Gaza will be necessary to entirely eliminate Hamas. Iranian proxies have threatened to enter the war if Israel invades Gaza, increasing the risk of the Levant plunging into a large-scale regional conflict.
Against this backdrop of war, Shin Bet says NILI will be working independently to bring justice to all those involved in the initial terrorist attacks against civilians.
The new unit’s name is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “Netzach Yisrael Lo Yeshaker,” translated to English as “The Eternity of Israel Will Not Lie.” The phrase originates from the Bible and 1 Samuel 15:29, which reads, “Moreover, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie and does not relent, for He is not a human that He should relent.”
The unit’s name also holds historical significance. NILI was the name of a Jewish espionage network that backed the United Kingdom in its battle against the Ottoman Empire in Palestine between 1915 and 1917 during World War I.
Israel has a history of determinedly hunting down those who commit crimes and acts of terror against its citizens.
Fifteen years after World War II ended, a joint covert operation by Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, and Shin Bet, led to the capture of former Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer and significant architect of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann.
Initially detained by the Allies after the war, Eichmann escaped using the notorious Nazi “ratlines” to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina. After being seized by Israeli operatives in South America, Eichmann was tried in an Israeli court and found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to death by hanging in 1962.
In 1972, Israel launched a covert assassination campaign following the mass murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Codenamed “Operation Wrath of God” or “Operation Bayonet,” for nearly twenty years, Mossad agents pursued and assassinated at least 22 members of the PLO and the Palestinian militant organization “Black September,” accused of being involved in the “Munich Massacre.”
Stemming from “Operation Wrath of God,” Mossad also has a shadowy, elite unit of special operatives known as “Kidon.” In Hebrew, Kidon roughly translates to “bayonet” or “the tip of the spear.”
Kidon is believed to be a part of Mossad’s Caesarea (undercover) Division, specializing in targeted killings of enemies from deep within denied, occupied, and hostile territories outside Israel. The shadowy unit is suspected of being responsible for the assassination of several Iranian scientists working on Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, including Iran’s chief nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in 2020.
Reports indicate that the newly formed NILI will focus on hunting down members of a special commando unit within Hama’s Al-Qassam militant wing called “Nukhba,” meaning “elite” in Arabic.
The IDF says that Nukhba commandos are primarily responsible for the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians during the October 7 attacks.
Shin Bet has indicated that NILI will operate independently from existing counter-terrorism units and IDF military operations in Gaza. NILI will focus solely on eliminating those accused of participating in the murder and torture of Israelis and foreign nationals in southern Israel.
The swift and brutal nature of the attack has pushed Israel’s security forces into high gear. Since the start of the war, Shin Bet says it has confiscated numerous weapons and arrested over 330 people in the West Bank for planning acts of terrorism. At least 190 arrested are said to have direct ties with Hamas.
Most of NILI’s activities will likely be carried out in secret. However, some indications are the new unit has already hit the ground running.
On October 14, the IDF announced it had killed Ali Qadi in a drone strike. The IDF said Qadi was a company commander in Hamas’ Nukhba command unit. The following day, the IDF said it carried out another airstrike, killing the southern Khan Yunis Nukhba forces commander, Billal Al Kedra.
According to the IDF, the southern Khan Yunis Nukhba forces, under the command of Kedra, were responsible for the attack on the Kfar Aza kibbutz, approximately 2 miles from the Gaza strip. At least 52 civilians were murdered in Kfar Aza. An additional 20 residents are still missing and believed to have been taken to Gaza as hostages.
Kfar Aza kibbutz is also one of the locations associated with the claims of savage violence, including reports that over 80% of the victim’s bodies showed evidence of torture.
Tim McMillan is a retired law enforcement executive, investigative reporter and co-founder of The Debrief. His writing typically focuses on defense, national security, the Intelligence Community and topics related to psychology. You can follow Tim on Twitter:@LtTimMcMillan. Tim can be reached by email: email@example.com or through encrypted email:LtTimMcMillan@protonmail.com