On May 2004, Tali Hatuel - a pregnant 34-year-old mother, and her four daughters were killed in a terrorist attack at the Kissufim crossing in the Gaza Strip. Two terrorists opened fire at the mother, who was in an advanced stage of her pregnancy, and her children Hila (11), Hadar (9), Roni (7), and Merav (2).
Early Tuesday, 19 years and one week later, Jahed Ahnam (62) - the secretary of the Islamic Jihad's military council, who was involved in planning that murderous attack - was killed in the opening strike of Operation Shield and Arrow.
David Hatuel, spoke emotionally about the assassination of one of the veteran members of the terrorist organization. "On behalf of myself and my entire family, I thank God and the security forces for the assassination of the person responsible for planning the murderous attack on my wife Tali and our four daughters Hila, Hadar, Roni, and Merav," he said.
He said this sends "a clear message to the murderers that the state of Israel will always get to whoever harms it. As long as they harm us, they will not have a safe haven on Earth. We come from eternal values and not from revenge. As the prophet says 'I will avenge their blood, blood I have not avenged, for God dwells in Zion.'"
Since that terror attack, Ahnam has filled prominent positions in the Islamist terror group, such as the head of the southern region. In his last position, he was responsible for coordinating and transferring funds and arms between the Jihad and the Hamas terror organization and was heavily involved in promoting terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and abroad.
Just two weeks ago, the Shin Bet said that in recent months it thwarted an attempt to establish a terror infrastructure in the West Bank, which was led by Ahnam. As part of the mission, the Shin Bet and IDF arrested a number of Palestinian residents of Jenin and the surrounding villages, who were recruited by Ahnam to carry out attacks.
"In recent years, there have been ongoing incitement efforts by all terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, who take advantage of Palestinian residents of the West Bank to promote terror activity," the Shin Ben said. "This is a systematic and extensive activity driven by the organizations, including the Islamic Jihad, to undermine stability in the area."
In an airstrike that took down Ahnam at the beginning of the operation early Tuesday, two other senior members of the Islamic Jihad were assassinated - Khalil Bahitini, the Jihad commander for the northern Gaza Strip who was responsible for firing the rockets, and Tarek Az Aldin, the group's intermediary between its Gaza and West Bank members. According to Palestinian reports, the family members of these senior officials were also killed during the operation.
Bahitini (44) oversaw multiple terrorist attacks originating from the northern edge of Gaza and helped plan targeted attacks against Israeli civilians deep in Israeli territory. He began his Jihadi activities in the late 90s and was involved in countless attacks against Israel over the years, including suicide attacks, roadside bombings, and rocket launches.
He acquired his impressive military skills through training in Iran. According to Palestinian sources, Bahitini entered Iran through Egypt during the reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. After returning from the training, he was arrested by Egypt upon arrival to Cairo, and was placed in detention for a few weeks before getting released. The Jihad celebrated his return to Gaza.
Already at a young age, the Jihad designated him as someone who would reach high-ranking military leadership positions. His brother, Mohamad Bahitini, who was also a military activist in the organization, was killed by the IDF in Gaza City in 2006. In the 2014 Gaza War, the Air Force destroyed his house in an aerial bombing.
Az Aldin (49) had recently been climbing up the ranks of the PIJ and helped foster closer relations between Gaza militants and their West Bank counterparts. He helped coordinate the transfer of funds, incitement against Israelis, and planning of terrorist attacks coming out of Gaza.
In the early 2000's He had previously been imprisoned in Israel with a life sentence due to his involvement in a suicide explosive attack, but was released as part of the agreement for the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.