The spasm of Hamas-provoked violence that gripped the Gaza Strip and parts of southern Israel last week has temporarily halted for the time being. According to credible reports, Israel informed Cairo that it would begin targeting Hamas leaders and commanders if Hamas failed to rein in its assorted thugs and gangsters. Hamas heeded the call, and for good reason.
Over the years, Israel’s various security branches have developed a penchant for liquidating dangerous enemies who seek to inflict harm on the Jewish State. Hamas is keenly aware of this fact having recently lost two of its operatives – Mohammad Zawari and Fadi Muhammad al-Batsh– under mysterious, cloak and dagger-like circumstances. Both were senior members of the terrorist group, and both were responsible for developing and advancing Hamas’s militarized drone program. Zawari was killed in December 2016 while in Tunisia while al-Batsh was liquidated in Malaysia just four months ago. In both cases, the culprits made a clean getaway.
While Israel’s security establishment is keeping watch over Hamas and the southern border, it hasn’t for a moment let up on its vigilance against Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, entities which pose the greatest menace to Israel’s north. Hezbollah receives $800-$1b annually in aid from Iran and has been able to amass a rocket arsenal of some 125,000 rockets and missiles. This formidable stockpile dwarfs the arsenals of nearly all NATO-member states. Hezbollah has also been constructing underground factories in Lebanon capable of producing long-range missiles.
Israel has been seeking to thwart efforts by Iran and Hezbollah to open a new front against Israel and has been waging a relentless military and political campaign to accomplish this objective. Of particular concern for Israel is the establishment of Iranian controlled ballistic missile facilities in Syria. One such facility in Masyaf, which is located in Syria’s northwestern Hama province, has been the target of repeated Israeli strikes. An Israeli intelligence site recently released satellite images of the Masyaf facility and the devastation caused by an apparent Israeli missile strike in July. The side-by-side, before and after images are glaring.
In addition to an overt military campaign, Israel has also been executing covert operations aimed at taking out those responsible for implementing Iran’s malign designs in Syria. Israel’s intelligence network in Syria is excellent and not much goes on in that dysfunctional failed state without the Israelis knowing about it.
The man largely responsible for the Masyaf facility and its top-secret missile development project was a Syrian named Dr. Aziz Asbar. Asbar, who had close ties to Iran and Quds Force commander Gen. Qassim Suleimani, had been on Israel’s radar for some time. Last Saturday, Asbar met with an ignominious fate when he (along with his chauffeur) was blown to smithereens when his car exploded in Masyaf.
According to one report, someone drove alongside his vehicle and latched a bomb to it. A number of Iranian nuclear scientists responsible for advancing Iran’s atomic bomb project were eliminated in a similar fashion. Another report posited that a bomb was placed in the seat’s headrest and exploded. In 2008, Hezbollah’s chief of special operations, Imad Mughniyah, was killed in Damascus under reportedly similar circumstances.
Asbar was no ordinary scientist. He led a top-secret weapons-development unit called Sector 4. At the time of his death, he was working to improve the lethality of the potent M-600 surface-to-surface missile. The M-600 is capable of leveling a city block. He was also deeply involved in efforts to construct a subterranean missile facility in Masyef to shield it from precision Israeli strikes. Asbar’s untimely demise has thrown a wrench into Iranian plans and has given Israel additional breathing space.
Asbar and his Hamas cousins, Zawari and al-Batsh can be added to the long list of names, stretching back several decades, who have succumbed to Israel’s vaunted security forces. In the 1960s, ex-Nazi scientists recruited by Egypt to build guidance systems for ballistic missiles found themselves on the receiving end of a very effective Mossad counter-proliferation campaign. The lead Nazi scientist was kidnapped and terminated while the others were “persuaded” to quit the project entirely and return to Germany.
In 1990, a disgruntled 62-year-old artillery genius named Gerald Bull placed himself in the service of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Bull, who was building a super cannon for Hussein, ignored repeated warnings to cease his activities. On March 22, 1990, he was shot and liquidated just outside his Brussels apartment. A number of Iranian nuclear scientists and ballistic missile experts have met similar fates.
There are so-called human rights activists and legal experts who have termed Israel’s use of extrajudicial liquidations “illegal” and “immoral.” But what these myopic armchair observers fail to recognize is that Israel faces genocidal enemies who don’t play by the rules but cynically exploit Western moral codes and laws of war when it suits them. Instead of criticism, Israel is owed a debt of gratitude for making the world a safer place by eliminating those who peddle in nothing but death and destruction.