Hamas announced Tuesday afternoon that Ayman Nofal, a member of the terror group’s General Military Council and the head of its military wing’s Central Gaza Brigade, known by his Kunya "Abu Ahmad," was killed in an Israeli air strike in the Bureij refugee camp.
Nofal is the highest-ranking Hamas figure killed since the beginning of the war. Israel had previously targeted him for assassination during operations in the Gaza Strip, including Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Following the announcement by Hamas, the IDF released footage of the strike in which Nofal was killed. The military said that under the guidance of Shin Bet intelligence, fighter jets targeted and eliminated the senior Hamas leader responsible for directing rocket attacks.
The IDF further stated that Nofal had a history of involvement in the production and development of weaponry, orchestrating various terrorist attacks and played a role in the planning of the 2006 kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. At 58, Nofal was a significant figure in Hamas and had close ties to Muhammad Deif, the shadowy leader of the organization’s military wing.
Over the years, Nofal worked to strengthen ties between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip. In an interview with Al-Jazeera in June, he stated that the joint command of the organizations represents a "practical and efficient model for the unity of the resistance axis." He further explained that this model was crafted to provide a holistic strategy for resistance forces confronting their adversaries in all situations.
Nofal, born in the Al-Bureij camp, played pivotal military roles in Hamas throughout his life. He led the group's military operations during both intifadas. In addition to his other duties, he headed Hamas's military intelligence unit and was frequently featured in their propaganda videos.
In 2008, Nofal played a key role in blowing up the Rafah border fence. Later that year, he was detained in Egypt on charges of plotting attacks. However, he escaped prison amid the civil unrest preceding the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Nofal eventually made a discreet return to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah tunnels and was warmly welcomed upon his arrival.
A year after his return, Egypt demanded that Hamas hand over Nofal and two other senior members following an attack in which Egyptian soldiers were killed. Palestinian reports suggested that Hamas agreed to extradite them to Egypt, but the three refused to turn themselves in, fearing they would be tortured.
Earlier Tuesday, the Hamas-appointed head of crossings in Gaza, Fouad Abu Btihan, and some of his relatives were killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Tuesday, Hamas radio reported. Abu Btihan, 55, was targeted in an IDF strike near his home in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp.
Later in the afternoon, Hamas announced that the IDF had bombed the house of Ismail Haniyeh's brother, the head of Hamas's politburo. According to Hamas, there were casualties in the house.