Israel takes out four Islamic Jihad leaders in "media building" strike

Targeting doesn’t get much more precise than this:

The Israel Air Force launched a precision air strike on four senior Islamic Jihad terrorists who were using a Gaza media building as a hideout. The terrorists were all struck in the blast, and at least one has been killed, according to Palestinian medical sources.

[…] The firs of the assassinated leaders named was Bha’a Abu al-Ata, a member of Islamic Jihad’s supreme military council, and commander of Gaza City brigade. He led rocket fire on Israel and oversaw the manufacture and import of rockets, including long-range Fajr projectiles.

Tisir Mahmoud Jabari, also a member of the supreme military council, headed terror operations, and orchestrated the firing of many rockets into Israel. He also took part in attacks on IDF forces.

Khalil Bahatini, was a senior operative involved in Islamic Jihad’s long-range rocket program.

Ramaz Harb was an Islamic Jihad spokesman and an aid to Jabari.

The building in question actually houses Al-Aqsa, the official Hamas TV station, plus the local offices of Britain’s Sky News and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya.  “The senior [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] cadre was operating in a media building.  They weren’t there to be interviewed,” explained the Israeli Defense Force, via Twitter.  “They were using reporters as human shields.  We targeted only the second floor, which is where the senior terrorists were.  The rest of the building was unharmed.  Direct hit confirmed.”

This amazing combination of accurate intelligence and precision targeting is one of the eleven reasons this time is different from Israel’s previous action in the Gaza Strip, identified by Anshel Pfeffer at Haaretz.  It’s actually part of Reasons Number Two and Three:

2. The ace has already been played ??? During Cast Lead, Hamas’ leadership barricaded themselves under Gaza’s Shifa Hospital. The IDF was therefore denied a high-profile assassinationand the Israeli public the satisfaction these actions usually invoke. Opening this operation with the targeted assassination of Hamas Chief of Staff Ahmad Jabari means that Israel’s leaders will have an easier time facing their public when they decide to end it. On the other hand, it gives Hamas a burning need for an achievement of its own.

3. Hamas missiles back to square one ??? The military build-up in Gaza over the last four years was unprecedented. Dozens of Fajr and M75 medium-range missiles were installed in concrete underground silos, ready to be used at a moment such as this. Nearly all of them went up in smoke during the first few hours of the operation.

It won’t be easy for them to rebuild the capability once calm is restored. Hamas is no longer on friendly terms with Iran, its main supplier, after they fell out over the Syrian civil war. Israel, for its part, has gotten a lot better at interdicting the smuggling routes. There is a limited number of hiding places in the crowded Gaza Strip and Israeli intelligence has exposed most of them. Hamas will try to reequip but will also be looking for other options to hurt Israel: Launching from bases in Sinai, a return to suicide attacks or, rather, diplomacy? Hamas is back to the drawing board.

In essence, the Israelis have already accomplished a great deal, taking out both high-value human targets and weapons that aren’t easily replaced.  They know that might not be enough to end the threat of random Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians – Pfeffer’s Reason 6 why “this time is different” notes that the Israelis are ready for anything, and they don’t intend to make this a contest of “proportional responses” and half-measures.

Clearly Israel sees that targeting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership is critical.  Those people aren’t easy to replace, and their potential successors might not be eager to join them on the ash heap of history.  Raining rockets on Israel doesn’t seem quite so “cost-free” to the leadership when the response is a precision-guided bomb with their names written on it.

Reuters ran an article on Sunday that professed to find plenty of smug satisfaction among the Palestinians:

As Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip for a fifth day, Ali Al-Ahmed took to the streets of Gaza city in his pyjamas on Sunday to buy eggs and chocolate for his three children.

“Terrifying, that’s how it feels,” he said.

“But they are also terrorized on the other side of the border,” he added approvingly. “To be honest, I thought Hamas had forgotten about fighting Israel. I was wrong.”

[…] Many Facebook pages express undisguised glee at Israelis scuttling for cover, and two singers from the West Bank have made a YouTube hit, “Strike Tel Aviv”, praising Hamas and others for firing rockets that can threaten Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the first time.

Maybe the jokers hiding inside that media building were having a “Strike Tel Aviv” sing-along right before the IDF blew their floor of the building right off the elevator control panel.  The top guys at Hamas might be feeling a lot less enthusiastic about fighting Israel than the more unpleasant egg-and-chocolate consumers on the Palestinian street, if a few more of them get erased.

The Reuters piece includes a few clues as to why the Palestinian leadership chose this particular moment to force a confrontation with Israel.  Iran could certainly use a little distraction from its nuclear activities right now.  The Palestinian government benefits politically from bringing its feuding factions together against a common enemy, while quieting criticism of their government’s manifest inadequacy at handling civic affairs.  A pretext for political realignment of Egypt and Turkey as more openly opposed to Israel was desirable.  But all of those “achievements” are cold comfort to Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders who have been blown to smithereens.