Three senior Hamas commanders, including the head of Hamas’s southern command in the Gaza Strip, were killed in Rafah Wednesday night, both Israel and Hamas confirmed Thursday morning.
Three of its most senior commanders in the southern area of the Strip were assassinated in the Israeli airstrike, in an operation that, for the first time, demonstrated that Hamas has been penetrated by Israeli intelligence, enabling the targeting of its most senior command echelons.
Two of the three were not mere senior commanders of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Muhammad Abu Shamala, the “head of the southern command” and Raed al-Attar, the commander of the Rafah area, were part of the founding generation of the Hamas military wing — along with Deif and several others who are no longer with us, including Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh and Emad Akel. They were among Deif’s closest brothers-in-arms — long-term veterans with experience and knowledge that cannot be easily replaced.
Abu Shamala and al-Attar are tied to almost every major attack in and from the Rafah area since 2001. These include the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit on a tunnel raid into Israel in which two other soldiers were killed, and even the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers on the Gaza-Sinai-Israel border two years ago. Thus the two had tangled not only with Israel, but also with Egypt, which knew of their ties to terrorist organizations in the Sinai.
“The strike was the result of intelligence and operational activities, which led to the detection and attack on two central operatives from the heart of Hamas’s military leadership,” the Shin Bet security service said in a statement. A third Hamas member was also killed in the attack.
“The Hamas leaders had “planned devastating attacks against the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said
The Shin Bet also named al-Attar as one of the architects of Hamas’s offensive tunnel operations in southern Gaza and as the head of the division that killed Israeli soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin while attempting to kidnap him. He was also allegedly responsible for smuggling weapons into Gaza from Sinai.
He’s going into a much smaller tunnel now.