by Anna Lekas Miller
On Monday night, Egypt brokered a tentative truce between Israeli and Palestinian factions—who, after five days of cross-border clashes that killed 6 Palestinians and injured 50, came to an agreement that they would not resume fighting unless the other side attacked again. If there was no more Hamas rocket fire, there would be no more Israeli airstrikes—and the two notorious enemies would resume their normalized, yet peaceful animosity towards one another.
Twenty-four hours later, any hope of a ceasefire was decimated when an Israeli airstrike targeted and killed Ahmed al-Jabiri—the leader of Hamas’s Military Wing, and most significantly, the main man behind the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. Hamas militants, and the Ezzenine Al-Qassam Brigade announce that with this strike, Israel has singlehandedly “unleashed the gates of Hell upon itself.”
Ahmed al-Jabari has been at the top of Israel’s most wanted list for years. A native Gazan, he was born in the Shujaiya district of Gaza City and studied history at the Islamic University. As a young man, he was an activist with Fatah—a notorious rival of Hamas. In 1982, he was arrested by the Israeli security forces for his political activities. Ironically, it was while serving a 13 year prison term that he met Hamas co-founders Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi and Salah Shehada, and decided to shift his political allegiance and join the Islamist movement.
After his release, al-Jabari became involved in Hamas’s military activities in the Gaza Strip, while the area was still under Israeli occupation. A few years later—when Salah Shehada was killed in an airstrike, al-Jabari took over as the Chief of Staff of the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas.
During his time as the Chief of Staff, al-Jabiri was a key architect of the attack on Kerem Shalom—where Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and two other Israeli soldiers were killed. While Shalit was held in captivity, al-Jabiri played an instrumental role in negotiating the concessions for his release, ultimately leading to the prisoner swap last year—where Shalit was freed in exchange for the freedom of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
After years of carefully maintaining a low profile, and avoiding any public exposure, al-Jabiri was seen publically and photographed last year escorting Gilad Shalit to the Egyptian authorities for his release. Since this sighting, he has been carefully tracked by the Israeli authorities and targeted up until his recent assassination.
Israel claims that this is the first significant targeted assassination of many to come.
Shortly after the assassination, Israel continued to pound the Gaza Strip throughout the day with twenty more airstrikes, killing five more civilians, two of which were school-aged children. More than thirty were critically injured, and Al-Shifa Hospital—the only operation hospital in the vicinity—quickly became overwhelmed with the scores of injured civilians. The scenes of emptying streets and hospital overcrowding began to resemble Operation Cast Lead—Israel’s 2008 offensive leaving 1400 dead, and essential infrastructure destroyed for years to come across the Gaza Strip.
However, this time, unlike Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) created a liveblog—and regularly tweets each victory of what they are calling “Operation Pillar of Defense” from the account of @IDFSpokesperson. One of these tweets included a graphic video of the real-time “elimination” of Ahmed al-Jarabi.
In many ways, it’s Operation Cast Lead 2.0.
Meanwhile, Israeli tanks fill the streets of Gaza City, creating an intimidating military presence to compound the constant threat of airstrikes. Though some politically active members of Hamas and Essenine al-Qassam Brigade rallied at al-Shifa hospital, most ordinary Gazans rushed home, anxious to be with their families. Shops closed early, and the streets quickly became deserted, reverting Gaza back to the war zone of Operation Cast Lead—inside, afraid to leave their homes and be “eliminated” as collateral damage in Israel’s latest, “Operation Pillar of Defense.”