Israel Attacks Two Islamic Jihad Leaders in Gaza and Damascus
Tuesday morning Palestinians were awoken with the news that Israel launched two airstrikes on leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, killing one and killing family members of both.
Angry Palestinian crowds in Gaza, including thousands of supporters of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, took part in the funeral procession of Bahaa Abuelatta, the Islamic Jihad’s 42-year-old influential military leader of the group, and his wife.
The couple were reportedly killed by an Israeli air raid early on Tuesday morning in their family home in eastern Gaza city. According to medical sources in Gaza, the two, along with their four children, were transferred to the Alshifa hospital in Gaza city.
The four children were seriously and moderately wounded, according to medics.
Gaza-based armed factions, including the Islamic Jihad itself, convened in Gaza in the aftermath of the extra-judicial Israeli killing of the influential leader, Bahaa Abuelatta.
Islamic Jihad, a Key Target for Israel
The Israeli army and government officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claimed responsibility for the air raid at dawn that hit the Abuelatta family home, killing him and his wife and wounding their children.
Netanyahu said that the assassination of Abuelatta was a necessary action that helped prevent a series of planned attacks by the Islamic Jihad group against Israel.
Israel has repeatedly accused Abuelatta of orchestrating rocket attacks against Israel over the past several years, along with developing the military capacities of the allegedly Iran-aligned Islamic Jihad group in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian Resistance Responds
The assassination prompted a fast response from Palestinians in Gaza. The joint operating command that involves the majority of Gaza-based armed factions including the Islamic Jihad and the ruling Hamas party, claimed responsibility for firing more than 160 rockets into nearby Israeli areas, including Sderot, Asdod and southern Tel-Aviv.
“We would assure our people and our own fighters that no calculations, whatsoever, could prevent us from responding to the assassination crime against both Bahaa Abuelatta and Akram Alajoury,” Khaled Albatch, a senior political leader of the group in Gaza, said during a mourning ceremony for Abuelatta at the Al-Omary Grand Mosque in Gaza city.
Alajoury was an Islamic Jihad leader who also was targeted on Tuesday but in Damascus. The Israeli airstrike there killed his son but Alajoury reportedly survived.
Israeli media reported that the rocket barrage damaged some residential buildings, and wounded a few Israelis. The reports add that a number of other residents in southern Israel were treated for shock.
Hamas Wants Proportional Response
The ruling Hamas party in Gaza said it holds Israel responsible for the latest escalation and threatened retaliation.
Commenting on recent developments on the ground for Aljazeera Qatari Arabic TV Channel, Hazem Qasem, a spokesperson for the ruling Hamas said: “The response should be proportionate with today’s crimes in both Gaza and Damascus. I do believe that the resistance factions can respond in a way that will prevent Israel from repeating those actions in the future. The resistance can definitely impose such an equation.”
A statement by the Palestinian government in Ramallah which is frequently at odds with Hamas said it considers the assassinations, carried out by Israel, as organized state terrorism.
“All we can is to ask for international intervention. In fact, amidst the total backing provided by the President of United States, Donald Trump, to Israel and it’s prime minister, Netanyahu, as well as current Arab states’ inability to act, we can not do more than call on the international community to intervene”, Dr. Nabil Shaath, an international relations advisor for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was quoted by Aljazeera Qatari Arabic TV channel, as reacting to the killing
Was Israeli Airstrike Politically Motivated?
Observers believe that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the assassinations for internal political reasons as he seeks to assemble a coalition government. They add that Netanyahu also wants to curb what he has always believed to be Iranian threats in the region.
The Gaza Strip has seen relative calm over the past few months. Recently, all Palestinian Gaza-based factions, including Hamas, have unanimously agreed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections that would help end the 12-year-old political split.
“The Islamic Jihad could respond to some extent. Once it enlarges the scale of its response, it could drag other Palestinians into a dangerous circle that Hamas does not want. If it goes further in its response, it could be accused of not working for the sake of Palestine, but rather for the sake of Iran,” Talal Aukal, a Gaza-based political analyst, told Citizen Truth.