He was the mastermind of the "July War", he planned a multifocal attack using a "monstrous tunnel", and supervised Hamas' most complex abduction operations – but he will never rise to command the terror group's military wing.
Raed al-Attar, one of the favorites to replace Mohammed Deif as the leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was killed along with the organization's Number 4, Mohammed Abu Shmallah, and another senior official, Mohammed Barhoum.
Al-Attar, Hamas' Rafah brigade commander, Abu Shmallah, the "Southern Division" commander, have been involved in the murder of Israelis and planning of terror attacks for over two decades. Their specialty was in terror tunnel operations and their prime priority was abductions.
Al-Attar planned in 2006 the attack in the Kerem Shalom area during which two IDF soldiers were killed and Gilad Shalit was abducted; he was also in command of the Rafah brigade that killed and captured the body of Lieutenant Hadar Goldin during Operation Protective Edge.
Abu Shmallah started attempting abductions back in 2004.
During the recent round of hostilities, al-Attar was one of the senior commanders of the Gaza terror group. Before the beginning of the operation, al-Attar was one of the masterminds of Hamas' "July War", after planning – starting in January – a coordinated attack on Kerem Shalom using a "monstrous tunnel" – which was discovered near a community at the start of Protective Edge.
Al-Attar planned to launch the operation as the opening blow of a war, by sending dozens of terrorists through the tunnel and killing large amounts of soldiers and civilians in the Kibbutz and the surroundings – all during an extensive rocket fire on the area and the abduction of an Israeli to Rafah.
Al-Attar also personally commanded over the tunnel attack on July 17, when 13 terrorists were documented returning back to Gaza through a tunnel. The inquiry into the incident revealed that an IDF patrol was identified near the terrorists which were spread out along a line in an open field near one of the kibbutzim.
The information was patched through to al-Attar's command & control center in Rafah, which ordered the force on the ground to cancel its operation and quickly retreat – but a missile was fired into the shaft by an Israeli Air Force craft, killing a few of the terrorists.
Al-Attar's involvement in Hamas began in 1994. In July of that year he personally took part in a cross-border attack on the Israel-Egypt border in which an IDF officer was killed. A Nahal Brigade force, which was on patrol in the area, was ambushed by terrorists.
Seven years later, al-Attar was involved in the planning and execution of an attempt to bomb an IDF post in Rafah, wounding four soldiers.
In January of 2012, al-Attar helped plan an infiltration attack into the "Africa" outpost near Kerem Shalom – four IDF soldiers from the Bedouin Brigade were killed. Al-Attar's plan involved a tricky diversion: six of the terrorists shook the security barrier to create "false alarms" while two terrorists cut through into Israel and attacked the post.
Roi Kais contributed to this report.