Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action ‘will not go unpunished’ 

Source: Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action ‘will not go unpunished’ – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

The IDF reinforced its troops and prepared for multiple possible situations. Shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled as a “severe security event.” Ashdod is in a state of emergency.

BY TZVI JOFFRE, KHALED ABU TOAMEH, TOVAH LAZAROFF, ANNA AHRONHEIM
 NOVEMBER 12, 2019 11:46
Abu al-Ata assassination: Hamas warns IDF action 'will not go unpunished'

Israel came under heavy rocket fire Tuesday morning after the Air Force bombed a building in the Gaza Strip in a targeted strike which killed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Leader Bahaa Abu Al-Ata. Rocket sirens sounded in Israeli cities surrounding the Gaza Strip including Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gedera as two different barrages of rockets slammed into Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Israel was responsible for the airstrike which killed Al-Ata, who it described as a “senior Islamic Jihad commander” who master-minded “numerous terrorist attacks and rocket attacks against the State of Israel in recent months and who intended to immediately carry out further attacks.”

In addition to al-Ata’s killing, Syrian media reported that another senior PIJ commander, Akram al-Ajouri, along with his wife and daughter, were killed in an airstrike in Damascus overnight by an Israeli strike. The IDF has not commented. Ajouri was responsible for coordination between Syria, where the group has its headquarters, and Gaza.

The security cabinet convened at 9 a.m. to discuss the violence and next steps in Israel’s operation. Defense officials said that if Islamic Jihad restrained itself and Hamas did not join the rocket fire, Israel would also hold back from escalating.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi will make a joint statement at 10:30 from the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv following the security cabinet meeting.

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories closed the Erez and Kerem HaShalom crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, and restricted the fishing zone Palestinians can enter off the coast of Gaza.

“We stand behind the security forces, who have been working for the success of this morning’s operations for a long time,” said President Reuven Rivlin in a statement. “I know that they, and the Israeli government that approved the operation, have Israel’s security, and only that, in their minds.
“This is no time for political squabbles, and those who do so bring no credit to themselves. It is the time to stop such statements immediately. Israeli citizens – please listen to the life-saving instructions of the IDF Home Front Command and take good care of yourselves.”

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned as a “crime” the assassination of al-Ata.

Erekat, in a statement published by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority news agency Wafa, said that the Israeli government bears “full responsibility for the results of this crime.”‭‮

At least 50 rockets were fired towards Israel on Tuesday morning after the IDF confirmed that it had killed al-Ata in Gaza in a “surgical airstrike.”

An hour after the strike, sirens were activated in numerous communities bordering the Gaza Strip as well as the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Gedera. At least two rockets impacted in the city of Sderot, causing one light injury and damaging a home.

Incoming rocket sirens were also activated in the central Israeli cities of Rishon Lezion and Holon.

Several Israelis were injured, including an eight-year-old girl who collapsed while running for shelter in Holon. She was evacuated to Wolfson hospital in serious condition.

IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman confirmed Tuesday morning that the military had received specific intelligence on al-Ata’s location and targeted the specific room where he was sleeping, leaving the rest of the building untouched in order to avoid civilian casualties.

Zilberman stressed that while the operation to kill Al-Ata was approved by the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet, the IDF was not returning to a policy of targeted killings.

“Over the past few months the IDF warned several times, and in various ways, that he should stop his activities,” Zilberman said. “The Chief of Staff decided on this operation because there was no other way.”

The IDF reinforced its troop deployment near Gaza and said it was prepared for multiple developments. Bomb shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled for children in the area due to the expected heavy rocket fire. Ashdod declared a state of emergency and the city said it is opening public shelters.

The operation against Al-Ata was approved by the security cabinet led by Netanyahu, who also serves as Israel’s defense minister. It was done after consultations with the IDF top brass in a joint operation with the Shin Bet.

Islamic Jihad confirmed that al-Ata was killed. The group said that one missile hit his house, killing him and his wife instantly. Two of his children were seriously wounded and rushed to hospital, the terrorist group added.

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health confirmed that two Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack early Tuesday.

Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al Nakhaleh, based in Lebanon, said in response to the assassination that Netanyahu has “crossed all redlines.”

“We are going to war,” Nakhaleh said.‭‮

The PIJ’s Al-Quds Brigade declared that the terrorist group was on the highest level of alert after the assassination.

The Hamas terrorist movement warned as well that the assassination “will not go unpunished.”

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that “the blood of our people and leaders is a redline and precious to all Palestinians.” The killing of al-Ata, he said, is a “dangerous escalation and a continuation of the aggression and crimes against our people and its resistance.”

Barhoum accused the Israeli government of seeking to “export its internal crises and impose new equations.” Israel, he added, “must pay the price and bear responsibility for the consequences” of the targeted killing.‭‮

Al-Quds Brigades, said in a statement that al-Ata, commander of the northern Gaza Strip, was “martyred while performing heroic jihad [holy war] to thwart conspiracies and defend the land.”

The group vowed to continue in the footsteps of its slain commander in order to “complete the process of liberation of the entire beloved Palestine. Our response will inevitably shock the Zionist entity.”

The military says that it expects a strong response from the PIJ following the strike, including rocket fire towards central Israel, and has urged residents of southern Israel to stay close to bomb shelters.

“The military says that it expects a strong response from the PIJ following the strike, including rocket fire towards central Israel and has urged residents of southern Israel to stay close to bomb shelters.”

وكالة سوا الإخبارية@palsawa

( شهود عيان : مكان الانفجار في وحدة سكنية شرق مدينة غزة، وسيارات الطوارئ وصلت المكان ) ؛ ولا معلومات رسمية حتى اللحظة حول طبيعة هذا الحدث.

وكالة سوا الإخبارية@palsawa

صورة للمنزل الذي وقع فيه الانفجار شرق غزة الآن.

View image on Twitter

Smoke was seen rising from the scene before 5 a.m.
Israel’s Homefront Command said that due to the sensitive security situation, schools were closed in the South and the central Gush Dan region, the first time since Operation Protective Edge in 2014. All non-essential work was also cancelled.

Israel said that the operation was launched to stop al-Ata, who was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and rocket fire throughout Israel.

Train service was temporarily canceled between Ashkelon and Beersheba and at the Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim stations.

The Home Front Command released directives for the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the Dan and Shfela region of central Israel. Gatherings in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip may include no more than 100 people in closed places. In Lahish and the central Negev, gatherings are limited to 300 people;  in central Israel they may have  up to 1,000 people in open areas and are without restrictions in closed areas.

Non-vital work will not take place in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip. Roads near the border fence will be closed.

“[Al-Ata] and his activities were a time bomb that violated the understandings and undermined security, and the State of Israel therefore carried out an activity to remove this threat and prevent continued attempts to undermine stability and security,” wrote COGAT on Twitter.

Al-Ata was considered one of the top terrorists in the blockaded coastal enclave. He had been involved in planning attacks against Israel, manufacturing arms and upgrading long-range rocket launching capabilities.

The second largest group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, PIJ has been assessed by military intelligence as a factor increasing the risk of an escalation in the blockaded coastal enclave, since it is not under the direct control of Hamas but acts independently for its own interests.

 

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