IDF kills terrorist in Gaza for the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense: Israeli aircraft killed a senior terrorist in north Gaza at approximately 10 am Tuesday. According to Israeli security officials, the terrorist, a Salafi who belongs to Global Jihad, orchestrated the recent rocket attack on Eilat, Israel's southernmost city.
The Palestinians reported that the terrorist was riding his motorbike near a Hamas training camp when he was targeted by an Israeli aircraft. Another man, apparently the terrorist's aide, was injured in the strike.
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Hamas' Health Ministry identified the terrorist as Haytham Almishal, 24, a resident of the Shati refugee camp who worked in security at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Channel 10 said Mashal was a rocket-manufacuring expert.
Scene of airstrike that killed Gaza terrorist (Photo: AFP)
Tuesday's attack was the first deadly airstrike carried out by Israel since a ceasefire ended Operation Pillar of Defense in November.
Shortly after the strike in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Today we hit one of the people involved in the wicked rocket fire on Eilat. I said that we would not let this pass quietly. We do not accept the firing from the Gaza Strip or from the Sinai Peninsula. We will work to protect Israel's citizens."
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Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called the targeted killing "dangerous and unjustified," adding that it was meant to create a tense atmosphere in the Strip.
Israel is trying to "divert attention from the Judaization and the settlement enterprise in Jerusalem," he said, adding that the strike was a violation of the Egyptian-mediated agreement which ended the war in November.
Terrorist's body carried in Gaza
Following the attack on Eilat, the PM said those responsible "were apparently members of a terrorist cell that left Gaza and used Sinai in order to attack an Israeli city.
"This is unacceptable. We will exact a price for this; this has been our consistent policy for the past four years and it will serve us here as well," he said.
Ynet's military analyst Ron Ben-Yishai said the strike in Gaza was a joint Shin Bet-IDF operation carried out as part of Israel's policy of deterrence and prevention. Almishal, he said, wasn't killed only because of his involvement in the rocket fire on Eilat, but mainly because he took part in the preparations for additional rocket attacks on Israel from Sinai, Gaza or both.
Should the targeted killing fail to bolster Israel's deterrence, the IDF will not wait long before launching another major offensive in Gaza, according to Ben-Yishai.
Nine rockets have been fired at Israel over the past 10 days by global jihad organizations, mainly as acts of defiance against the Hamas government. The regime in Gaza tried to prevent the rocket attacks, in part due to pressure applied by Egypt, but its efforts were ignored by the Salafist and jihadist groups.
Ben-Yishai said Almishal became an independent expert on weapons, mainly rockets. He supplied rockets to anyone who was interested. According the analyst, there is a fair amount of such "freelancers" in Gaza. Almishal served as a weapons consultant for all the terror groups, but mainly to the small Salafist groups who are firing rockets at Israel.
Among other things, Almishal transferred Grad rockets and gave advice ahead of the rocket attack on Eilat. It remains unclear whether he served as a mediator between the Bedouins in Sinai who hold the rockets and the organization which carried out the attack (Shura Council of the Mujahideen in the Environs of Jerusalem), or if he transferred the rockets directly from the Salafi groups from weapons caches in Gaza.
Not only was Almishal not a member of any Salafist or global jihad organization, he was on the payroll of one of the Hamas government's security agencies in Gaza. His rocket expertise offered him a way to earn a side income.
Elior Levy, Reuters contributed to the report
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