Following a Sunday morning airstrike that critically wounded Palestinian terrorist Abdullah Kharti, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel would exact a price from Hamas if it did not prevent terror attacks from the Gaza Strip, which it controls.
“We will not tolerate the disruption of our citizens’ lives and will act forcefully against anyone who harms or tries to harm Israel,” he said in a statement. “We see Hamas as responsible for what happens in the Gaza Strip, and if it does not know how to impose its authority in this territory, it will also pay the price.”
Kharti, who was responsible for multiple attacks against Israel, was hit from the air near the central Gaza town of Dir al-Balah, according to Palestinian reports. Another man was moderately wounded in the strike, but his identity has not been publicized. Kharti was hit while riding a motorcycle.
The IDF has confirmed that the Israeli Air Force conducted the operation.
“Abdallah Kharti, born in 1985, is a key Popular Resistance Committees operative, affiliated with global jihad,” an IDF statement said. “Kharti was involved in numerous incidents of rocket fire towards Israel. The IDF operated in order to eliminate an imminent threat to the lives of Israeli civilians.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also commented on the strike at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday. “Our resolute policy against terrorism may be summed up in a single principle: Whoever attacks us or plans to attack us will bear the consequences,” he affirmed.
There have been 33 rocket attacks on Israeli towns and territory since the beginning of 2014, the IDF noted. The Sunday strike followed a week in which at least four rockets were fired at Israeli towns. The latest rocket fire had not drawn an Israeli response until the Sunday morning strike.
“Precision munitions combined with advanced intelligence enables us to strike terrorists like Kharti while they attempt to use Hamas’s Gaza as a haven for their hostilities,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “Gaza terrorists will not be able to launch with impunity these cross-border attacks at Israeli civilians.”
According to the Shin Bet security service, Kharti was a member of the Popular Resistance Committees and was considered a radical jihadist with close ties to extremist jihadi forces in Sinai who have carried out a series of attacks against Egyptian troops and police in recent months and years. Kharti was responsible for an August 2012 attack on Route 12 that killed 12 Israelis, and for rocket fire on the southern town of Eilat, according to Israeli security sources. He was also involved in smuggling armaments to jihadi groups in Sinai.
Hamas on Saturday once again deployed troops to the border separating the Gaza Strip and Israel fro the purpose of rocket prevention, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip said, but this time they were members of its armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, not the force it had previously dispatched to prevent rocket fire at Israel.
The move, which came shortly after a rocket was fired Saturday at Israel for the fourth time in a week, seemed aimed to deliver a clear message to the smaller armed groups in the Gaza Strip that Hamas will not tolerate rocket fire at Israel. It may have also served as a message to Israel that Hamas seeks calm rather than conflict.
Last week Hamas removed most of the 900-strong force it had employed to prevent rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza-Israel border, prompting fears of an escalation in hostilities between the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip and the Jewish state.