Qatar’s Cyberwarfare Support of Hamas in the War with Israel

There is more behind Israeli Prime Minister’s objection to Qatar as a go between with the Administration seeking to gain leverage with Hamas for the current 72 hour truce. Qatar’s contribution to Hamas goes beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars diverted to build the terror tunnels. It also encompasses a hitherto unrevealed cyberwarfare effort by Qatar to design and build a high tech system to automatically launch rockets and missiles against Israeli civilians and IDF forces. Start-Up Israel, a publication of The Times of Israel, had an article about the Qatari high tech role in Hamas’ war with Israel  in today’s edition authored by journalist David Shamah, “Qatari tech helps Hamas in tunnels, rockets: Expert”.

Here are some jarring excerpts:

Though many Israelis underestimate its capabilities, Hamas actually has sophisticated computer and networking resources in terror tunnels to detect the presence of IDF troops and to automatically fire rockets and missiles at Israeli targets — and a rich sponsor is helping them.

It is Gulf energy powerhouse Qatar, says Aviad Dadon of Israeli cyber-security firm AdoreGroup. “The Qataris have invested hundreds of millions in both defensive and offensive cyber capabilities,” said Dadon. “We have sourced 70% of the cyber-attacks on Israeli government sites in recent weeks to IP addresses associated with Qatar.”

Not only is Qatar footing the bill, it also trained Hamas terrorists how to use sophisticated equipment and systems to manage its extensive terror tunnel system, as well, systems to fire rockets at Israel using automatic, timed launching systems.

“Qatar looks at this war between Israel and Hamas as a proving ground,” said Dadon, a senior cyber-security adviser at several Israeli government ministries. “They are taking lessons from the performance of their cyber-equipment and will improve them even further for the next war, which will be even more cyber-oriented than this one.”

According to Dadon, Hamas has embedded sophisticated network systems inside its terror tunnels, giving operatives in command and control centers the ability to monitor events in any of the tunnels. Using sensors and other networked equipment, terrorists can quickly be notified if an IDF unit is advancing in a tunnel, allowing them to disperse quickly — and allowing the command and control staff to set off explosives when soldiers approach a booby trap.


Besides the assistance Qatar gives Hamas, hackers hired by the Gulf kingdom have been busy hitting Israeli government and infrastructure sites, trying to disrupt the operations of electricity, water, and other critical systems, said Dadon. “They are at the top of the (target) pyramid in the use of cyber-technology for terrorist purposes,” he said, adding that Israel has successfully defended its infrastructure with its own sophisticated cyber-security technology.

Qatar is using the Gaza war to test out systems to defend against threats from neighboring  Saudi Arabia:

While Doha is allowing Hamas to use its technology to fight Israel, it is their own cyber-security the leaders of Qatar are worried about. “For them, the war between Israel and Hamas is a proving ground to see how their investments in cyber systems have paid off,” Dadon said. Qatar is very worried that one of its Gulf rivals — specifically Saudi Arabia — will use technology to attack it, and Qatar spends a great deal of money each year on shoring up its cyber-technology.

The motivation behind the Qatari development of cyber warfare capabilities-overthrow of Saudi Arabia and support for Muslim Brotherhood:

Politics is behind Qatar’s willingness to pay for Hamas’ cyber-system. The Saudis believe that Qatar is behind efforts to unseat the Saudi royal family — using social media and the Al-Jazeera satellite channel.  Riyadh earlier this year recalled its ambassador to Doha, after he refused to pledge that it would “not interfere in others’ internal affairs.”  Eli Aviad, who formerly headed Israel’s Economic Liaison office in Qatar said that, “Israel and Hamas are a ‘playground’ for Qatar. Qatar already spends billions each year on cyber-security, and in recent years that spending has gone up substantially.” While they are primarily interested in cyber defense, Aviad said, “they are also interested in assisting their Muslim Brotherhood allies — and hence their willingness to fund the Hamas terror program”. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The question is who in Qatar, the tiny gas-rich peninsula off Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, are building these sophisticated cyber warfare capabilities. Qatar has only 280,000 citizens supported by nearly 2 million foreign workers, largely from South Asia and the Indonesian and Philippine archipelagoes. Have they sent their best and brightest for technical education in the West or could it be foreign contractors? The US Administration signed an $11 billion arms deal with Qatar shortly after the start of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. We question what that arms deal may include. Watch out, Egypt.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Qatar’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani meeting Hamas ruler Ismael Haniyeh in Rafah Crossing on Gaza-Egypt border. Photo – Al Jazeera English TV.