Hamas seen limiting response to Abu al-Ata killing

Funeral of Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza / Photo: Mohammed Salem, Reuters
Funeral of Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza / Photo: Mohammed Salem, Reuters

The Hamas leadership is presumably not grief-stricken at the demise of "the troublemaker of Gaza."

The troublemaker of the Gaza Strip, Baha Abu al-Ata, commander of the military wing of Islamic Jihad in the north of the Strip, who was killed last night, was the person who initiated most of the recent rocket fire on Israel in recent months, contravening Israel's understandings with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and disturbing the relative calm on the Gaza border.

Among the attacks for which he was responsible were the rocket fire on the south during Memorial Day for the IDF's fallen soldiers, the fire on the Sderot Festival in the summer, leading to the festival's cancellation, and the fire on Ashdod and Ashkelon a week before the election during a rally held by Benjamin Netanyahu in Ashkelon, forcing Netanyahu to leave the stage to find shelter. According to reports from the Gaza Strip, Abu al-Ata took an independent line and did not conform to orders from his commanders and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah.

Abu al-Ata opposed any accord with Israel, including the arrangement whereby the Qatar government transfers cash to the Gaza Strip to support needy families, and he tried to thwart any such moves. He advocated continuation of the path of "resistance", dissociating himself from Hamas, which sought to promote calm. He aggressively criticized Hamas, and aimed to replace it as the flagbearer of the struggle against Israel.

The Egyptians tried to restrain Abu al-Ata, and two months ago he was summoned to Cairo, where he was received with honor, and in a conciliatory gesture dozens of Islamic Jihad members who had previously been arrested in Egypt were released. The gesture did not really work, however. Despite promises, he returned to his former ways, and Israel marked him as bearing the main responsibility for the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip in recent weeks.

It can cautiously be presumed that, despite threatening announcements, the Hamas leadership is not overly upset at Abu al-Ata's demise. In its statement following last night's operation, Hamas warned Israel not to return to the policy of targeted killings, which it said would lead to escalation and firing on all cities in Israel.

Israeli security sources say that it has been made clear to the heads of Hamas in the Gaza Strip that Abu al-Ata was the sole target in last night's operation, and that if the rocket fire stops, Israel will keep the peace. The message was conveyed via Egypt and other intermediaries. A delegation from Egypt is due to arrive in Israel today to discuss the situation. The assessment in Israel is that after the obligatory retaliatory salvoes of rockets from Islamic Jihad and some of the small terrorist groups, Hamas itself will refrain from responding, and will even rein in the others during the course of the day.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 12, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

Funeral of Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza / Photo: Mohammed Salem, Reuters
Funeral of Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza / Photo: Mohammed Salem, Reuters
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