Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip has the “ideal profile” to become a target. A few days before the assassination of three Israelis with axes, he appealed to the Palestinians: “everyone prepare his rifle, and if you don’t have one, prepare a cleaver, an ax or a knife”. The two Palestinian perpetrators of the attack have taken action.
Immediately, a wave of indignation swept through Israel. Most commentators, some ministers, openly demanded Yahya Sinwar’s head, even though Hamas did not claim responsibility for the attack. Under pressure from public opinion, with a majority of 59% of Israelis according to a poll, in favor of “targeted killings”, the government has for the moment refused to let its hand be forced. “All operational and strategic decisions must be made behind closed doors. Politics should not interfere” warned Benny Gantz, the Minister of Defense in response to accusations of “weaknesses towards Hamas” of Benjamin Netanyahu, the previous head of government.
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For its part, Hamas threatened to trigger a “regional earthquake” and of ” burn ” Tel Aviv if Israel went after its leader. In short, his assassination would not fail to provoke the firing of rockets and missiles from the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamists towards Israeli territory. After much consideration, military officials have leaked to the media that they would prefer not to take such a risk immediately without renouncing “targeted eliminations”.
Experience = caution
The experience of the past indeed leads to caution. In some cases, this expeditious method carried out with bombs dropped by planes, suicide drones, commandos, or cell phone bombs has had a positive impact from the Israeli point of view. The 2004 elimination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin prompted Hamas to agree to a truce in the then fighting. Other killings, on the other hand, only exacerbated tensions and incited further attacks.
On the foreign front, too, the results are mixed. The killing of Fathi Shiqaqui, the leader of Islamic Jihad, by men on motorbikes in Malta in 1995 was a severe blow to the organization. According to foreign sources, the Mossad has also killed a Palestinian engineer specializing in drones in Sfax, Tunisia in recent years, while another engineer close to Hamas was executed in 2018 in Indonesia. But the same year, the Mossad launched an operation with ambivalent results by assassinating in a hotel in Dubai, a Hamas chief responsible for arms purchases, while all the agents who took part in the operation were filmed before flee. Difficult to be less discreet. In 1997, Israeli agents tried in vain to poison a Hamas leader in Amman in the middle of the street, causing a serious crisis with Jordan. Worse still, the assassination of Abbas Moussawi, leader of Hezbollah in 1992 in Lebanon, propelled Hassan Nasrallah, a much more charismatic adversary, to the head of the organization.
No other way?
Despite these disappointments, Israel, according to military sources quoted by the media, informed the “friendly” countries of the possibility of new liquidations abroad. Two senior Hamas figures would thus be in the crosshairs; Saleh al Houri, in charge of operations in the West Bank, and Zaher Jabarin, the organization’s chief financial officer, both travel between Turkey, Lebanon and Qatar.
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A prospect that Ran Ben-Barak, chairman of the Knesset’s Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, considers without illusion. For him, in fact, the problems in Gaza will not be solved by targeting so and so… “And for reasons:” when we tackle one Hamas leader, another appears “. An acknowledgment of powerlessness which, on the other hand, is not debatable.