Israel assassinated a senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees Friday evening in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah. The man, Iyad Abu al-Aynayn, was killed along with his son and four other Palestinian gunmen. The commander's wife and other son were seriously wounded in the attack.
Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip reported that Israel Air Force helicopters fired a number of missiles at a vehicle in an area serving as a training facility of the Salah al-Din Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' military wing.
The wing was established by former Fatah members, but has been identified with the Hamas movement in recent years.
Al-Aynayn was known as one of the brigades' rocket engineers. The group has been firing Qassam rockets at Israel in the past few months along with the Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Earlier Friday, the Salah al-Din Brigades claimed responsibility for several rockets fired from the Strip.
Military sources confirmed that the IAF carried out the strike and said that the target attacked was an isolated military camp in the full sense of the word, which is distanced from a populated area. Therefore, the sources said, it is hard to understand why there were civilians in the area.
Abbas' spokesman: Unforgivable crime
The sources added that the vehicle was attacked after the figures were spotted entering the vehicle inside the military camp, and that the order to fire was at the car was given when it was on its way out of the camp.
Nabil Abu-Rudeina, the spokesman of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, harshly criticized the IDF's attack on Rafah, saying that it was "an unforgivable crime."
Abu-Rudeina called on the international Quartet to "interfere in order to pressure Israel to halt its attack against the Palestinians." He added that "Israel's destructive policy is a continued violation of the calm and will have harsh consequences in the near future."
Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the new Hamas-led government, called the IDF's attack a "brutal massacre."
"Maybe it's an important message to the president (Abbas) today that Israel is not interested in peace or political compromises," he said.
The last IAF strike against terrorists in the Gaza Strip took place on March 6. Two senior Islamic Jihad members were killed in the attack, which also killed three children who were standing next to the terrorists' vehicle.
IAF Commander in Chief Major-General Eliezer Shakedi later said that there was a significant drop in the number of innocent civilians hurt during the army’s anti-terror operations, stating that in 2005 one civilian was killed in every 28 attacks, as opposed to 2003, when a civilian was killed once in every 12 IAF targeted killing operation.
Last Friday, a car belonging to as senior commander of the Popular Resistance Committees exploded in Gaza, killing Khalil al-Quqa, commander of the Salah al-Din Brigades. Members of al-Quqa's organization accused Palestinian officials of cooperating with Israel in the assassination.
Following the accusations, exchanges of fire broke out between the organization's gunmen and Palestinian security people, killing three Palestinians. The IDF denied any involvement in the incident.