At first, the drone flies high above a neighbourhood of Beit Hanoun, now a crumpled wasteland of ruins in the barren desert of northern Gaza after repeated Israeli airstrikes.
The chilling footage, shot by the Hamas-operated device itself, shows how it robotically shifts focus to find and hone in on its target. A black bomb, with a bright orange tail to help guide it, dangles mid-air for a few seconds and then drops.
The wide-angle shot narrows to reveal the explosive’s impact, just feet from a dozen resting soldiers of an Israeli infantry unit. Most jump to their feet, scattering through the smoke and running through the wasteland. Some appear to remain on the ground, their fate unknown.
The footage, released by Hamas’ military wing on social media, could not be independently verified, but it does point towards the terrorist group’s adoption of tactics seen widely in the Ukraine war, where the use of remodelled commercial drones to attack the enemy has become routine on battlefield frontlines.
The strategy was first deployed by Hamas to devastating effect on October 7, when it launched its surprise attack on Israel by first using adapted commercial quadcopter drones to drop explosives that disabled surveillance towers along the border fence with the Gaza Strip.
From the very start of its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia deployed commercial drones carrying explosive devices – a strategy that was quickly replicated by Ukraine, which is now scrambling to build as many drones as possible for reconnaissance and to strike enemy soldiers.
In what has been described as a “war of drones”, footage released on social media has revealed multiple times how Russian troops sheltering in trenches have been surprised by an attack from a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can be difficult to spot until directly overhead.
The new video from Gaza suggests Hamas may have learned this lesson, although experts point out that the number and scale of drones used in the Middle East does not come close to Ukraine.
In the days after Hamas’ horrific assault on Israeli border villages, analysts said they had been taken aback by the group’s ability to recalibrate off-the-shelf drones.
Liran Antebi, a drone technology expert at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv told Deutsche Welle she was “surprised by the unexpected and complex use of Hamas drones”.
She added: “This proves that, even if they are technologically quite primitive, they can be much deadlier in a complex mission than we previously would have admitted.”
On Thursday, the Israeli military confirmed 15 soldiers had been killed in battles in northern Gaza since Tuesday – the first Israeli casualties inside the enclave. It did not mention the purported drone bombing.
General Vincent Desportes, professor of strategy at Sciences Po University, explained the complexities of a ground invasion in an interview on France 24, suggesting Hamas would likely aim to cause mass casualties to shock the public and force a retreat.
“Israel knows that it is entering a trap prepared by Hamas for years and years, so Israel must be very careful in the way it is going to make its invasion,” he said.
“We saw (on Tuesday) people coming beyond the Israeli troops and fighting them from behind, so they have to advance and secure everything very slowly.”