The hit on Assam Subahi Ismail Batash in Gaza Strip was a full fledged targeted assassination. The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades terrorist was planning a murderous attack that would have taken place near the Israel-Egypt border this week.
It's highly probable that the rocket fired by an IAF aircraft that killed Batash and his nephew, stopped a terror attack which was probably in the advanced stages of planning; and one the threat of which had the IDF on alert and the residents of the south anxious. Gaza militants retaliated with rocket fire, but the IDF believes the hit will not result in an escalation, because that is not what Hamas wants right now.
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The hit on Batash was the latest is a series of targeted assassinations, whose frequency has been growing steadily since August, but more are likely to follow. The reason is the Southern Command's new thwarting policy, instated after the deadly attack which took place on the Israel-Egypt border in August.
As part as the conclusions drawn following the terror attack, which claimed the lives of eight Israelis, it was revealed that the IDF and the Shin Bet has prior, detailed intelligence about the Popular Resistance Committees leadership's intentions to carry out the attack, and how it gave the order to the Egyptian and Bedouin cell that carried it out.
Lessons of terror
The Shin Bet suggested targeting the PRC leadership, but the IDF refused and decided to foil the attack on the ground, i.e. – on the Sinai border – so not to expose sources and information. The IDF ended up killing those senior PRC members mere hours after the attack. It was an impressive revenge with deterrence value, but it didn’t prevent Israelis from being killed.
In light of the events, the IDF instated a more rigid policy, meant to spare no effort in preventing any terror attack, attempted abduction or projectile fire emanating from Gaza, Sinai or any combination of the two; whether they are on the brink of execution or have been set in motion. Even if preventing such attacks may result in massive rocket fire from Gaza.
In accordance with this policy, IAF aircraft have targeted several cells, from several groups – but none of Hamas' – that were gearing to fire rockets at Israel.
Batash was a senior member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades – Fatah's military wing. they no longer targets Israel via the West Bank, but they do so from Gaza, and their militant ideology has grown more radical. The group's activism also rivals that of other rogue groups in the Strip, which are also defiant of Hamas.
In was in the name of the-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades that Batash sent a suicide bomber to infiltrate Eilat through Sinai in 2007 and kill Israelis. It seems that Batash was seeking to recreate his "success" this week, with another terror attack along those lines – only this time, the IDF knew better.