Assassination is the order of the day on Friday as the papers report on the Israeli military’s campaign to take out the heads of Hamas, wherever they are.
“The assassinations that are shaking Hamas,” Israel Hayom says on its front page. The images of four Hamas leaders, including Muhammad Deif, are placed alongside that of an excavator going through the rubble of one of their houses. It reports that the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet took out Nos. three and four of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, days after it attempted to kill the group’s figurehead leader, Deif.
“The attack was carried out following intensive intelligence and operational actions by the Shin Bet, which led to the location and striking of two central activists in the military leadership of Hamas,” the paper quotes the intelligence organization as saying.
Yedioth Ahronoth paints a much more colorful picture of the war-room scene, building up to the assassination of Hamas leaders Muhammad Abu Shamala and Raed al-Attar. It brings in a quote from an unnamed Israeli Air Force officer involved in the strike.
“Great certainty was built that the person who we wanted to assassinate was there in Rafah,” the IAF officer tells the paper. “In the planning stage and in real time, we practiced the attack according to the developing intelligence and the correct alternative, which balances the senior [Hamas] officials against noncombatants surrounding them. The bombings were coordinated in a way that guarantees the success [of the mission] and minimizes the possibility of harming adjacent houses.”
The paper reports that the timetable was tight and that the senior-most Israeli officials were consulted before one-ton bombs were dropped, leveling the senior Hamas terror chiefs’ homes. Yedioth Ahronoth reminds its readers of the significance of these assassinations.
“Today, Hamas is built like an army in every respect,” it writes. “It has brigades, battalions, a command and control network. And, therefore, assassination of someone at the head of these networks is significant. To raise an appropriate replacement is a complicated matter, which can take years, and it doesn’t always succeed.”
Thousands turned out for the Gaza funerals of the slain Hamas leaders, Haaretz reports, and Hamas vowed that missiles fired at Israel will call out the dead men’s names.
Whereas the assassinations are front-page news in the two tabloids, Haaretz opts to run with the bid by Germany, the United Kingdom and France for a UN Security Council resolution to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip. The paper reports that a draft proposal includes disarmament of the Gaza Strip, removal of Hamas from power and restoration of Palestinian Authority control, and renewing the peace process on the basis of the 1967 lines.
An Israeli official who spoke to Haaretz says that any ceasefire arrangement will be based on the Cairo proposal and will come through Egypt, not via international bodies.
The fact that Hamas reportedly executed three suspected collaborators only earns a footnote in Israel Hayom. The paper quotes Palestinian sources as saying that dozens of Gaza residents — many of whom were Fatah activists — were arrested and interrogated on suspicion of helping the IDF target the Hamas leaders. At least three were given summary judgment and shot. The reported executions finds no mention elsewhere in the press.
Yedioth Ahronoth and Haaretz both run large analysis pieces — by Sima Kadmon and Yossi Verter, respectively — about the growing discord between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior ministers and coalition allies, particularly Minister of Economics and Trade Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman.
Israel Hayom writes that after Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly criticized cabinet members for spreading baseless rumors and leaks, the storm continues to rage at the top of the political pyramid. Netanyahu’s fellow Likud ministers tended to back him up in his criticism, which, according to a cabinet source, was aimed at Bennett and Liberman, but other coalition members say the cabinet ministers have the right to speak their mind.
Verter uses the same expression as Kadmon — “fed up” — in his headline about a frustrated prime minister, who, on Wednesday, held a press conference that “exposed the cracks at the top of the country’s leadership” and “had the effect of playing up the weakness and flaws” of Netanyahu himself.
Amid the conflict with Hamas, each of the PM’s senior ministers is telling the press their various opinions about how Israel should act. “They are looking toward an election, or elsewhere. Respect for the prime minister, a cornerstone of every governmental culture, has vanished,” writes Verter.
“He’s fed up,” echoed Kadmon in Yedioth Ahronoth. “He’s fed up with the leaks, he’s fed up with the briefings, he’s fed up that, in the most prestigious and secret forum in the country, there are people who listen, speak, and vote, and afterwards run out and present an opposing position to that which they voted on in the cabinet.” She says Netanyahu is fighting a war on two fronts — one against Hamas and the other against his ministers, particularly Liberman and Bennett, who are publicly presenting more aggressive proposals for tackling Hamas than that of Netanyahu.