Israel conducted a targeted killing of two senior, and one lower level, Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip Wednesday night, the Jerusalem Post reports. Coordinating with the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence agency, the Israeli Air Force struck a building in Rafah, killing Ra'ad Attar, Muhammad Abu Shamalah, and Muhammed Barhoum.
As the most senior Hamas leader in southern Gaza, Shamalah, 39, oversaw terrorist operations in all of Rafah and Khan Younis and was directly involved in planning and conducting dozens of attacks on Israel. He was also one of the main masterminds behind the Kerem Shalom tunnel attack in 2006, which led to the deaths of two IDF soldiers and the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit. During the current escalation, he facilitated the infiltration of 13 Hamas terrorists into Israel through an underground tunnel.
Ra'ad Attar, 39, formerly a senior member of Hamas' military wing, was responsible for establishing Hamas' tunnel network in south Gaza. He also served as a commander of terrorist operations in his region and participated in numerous deadly attacks and bombings on Israeli soldiers. Both Shamalah and al-Attar have ties with terrorist groups operating in Egypt and are connected to the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula two years ago.
"This strike represents a very significant intelligence achievement, and an intelligence infiltration," a security source told the Jerusalem Post.
Israel also targeted Hamas' military wing chief Muhammad Deif, striking his home in Gaza City. His condition is unknown – Hamas says he survived, but that the strike killed Deif's wife and son.
Israel's longstanding policy of targeted killing tries to eliminate senior terrorist leaders and highly skilled members. It forces other leaders deeper into hiding and inhibits them from planning and conducting terrorist attacks as freely. This latest string of targeted killings has sent shockwaves among other Hamas leaders who fear Israeli intelligence infiltration within their inner circles, breading increasing mistrust that may inhibit coherent coordination at the senior most levels.
In response, Hamas rounded up suspected "collaborators," reportedly executing at least three of them within hours.
Israel also expects Hamas to launch a series of desperate attacks to answer the successful removal of key Hamas operatives.
"In the next few days," writes Times of Israel analyst Avi Issacharoff, "Hamas will try to use every military means at its disposal: the rockets it has saved for a 'moment of truth,' any of its cross-border attack tunnels that may remain, West Bank suicide bombers — anything to prove to Israel that Hamas has not been defeated and is still standing."
Israel called up 10,000 fresh reservists in anticipation.
More than 300 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza after Hamas broke the latest ceasefire on Tuesday. The IAF responded by targeting roughly 100 terrorist targets across Gaza, including rocket launch pads, command and control infrastructure, and terrorists firing missiles into Israeli population centers.