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US reportedly notified Israel ahead of raid that killed Islamic State leader

Bennett and Defense Minister Gantz hail killing of terror chief in Syria: ‘The world is now a safer place’

People check a destroyed house after an operation by the US military in the Syrian village of Atmeh, in Idlib province, Syria, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)
People check a destroyed house after an operation by the US military in the Syrian village of Atmeh, in Idlib province, Syria, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

The US notified Israel ahead of a raid in Syria that killed the leader of the Islamic State terror group, according to Thursday reports.

Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the global leader of IS since 2019, blew himself up as US commandos closed in on him in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province overnight Wednesday-Thursday.

The Kan public broadcaster said the US notified Israel of the operation ahead of time, likely because of Jerusalem’s familiarity with al-Qurayshi, who held the “Israel file” in IS before taking over as the terror group’s leader in October 2019, when his predecessor was killed in a similar US raid.

The US said it launched the raid from an unidentified base in the region after having “deconflicted” the mission with “a range of entities.” That’s jargon for giving certain other military forces or interests in the region — perhaps also Russia — notice of a US operation underway.

Israel has not been a spectator in the global fight against IS. Former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot told the Maariv daily earlier this month that Israeli forces participated in actions that killed hundreds of the group’s operatives throughout the Middle East.

The predawn raid in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province targeted al-Qurayshi, who took over as head of the group just days after his predecessor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during a US raid in the same area. US President Joe Biden said al-Qurayshi died, as al-Baghdadi did, by exploding a bomb that killed himself and members of his family, including women and children, as US forces approached.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz both hailed the US operation that ended in the death of al-Qurayshi.

“The world is a safer place now that the leader of ISIS has been eliminated,” Bennett wrote on Twitter.

“I commend our great ally the United States and the brave American soldiers for executing this daring operation. We must continue the global fight against terror — with strength and determination,” he added, not mentioning the fight against Iran by name, but apparently alluding to it.

Gantz offered similar praise when speaking to reporters at the tail end of his visit to Bahrain, saying the attack sent a message not only to the terror group but to the world about America’s willingness and ability to conduct bold operations.

“It broadcasts an important message to the Middle East. The message is that there is the operational and strategic determination of the utmost significance. As a rule, the American modus operandi is to do big operations, and they have the capability,” Gantz said.

“I think it is very important, it is an important message to the world — that when America wants to do something, it can,” he added, in an apparent hint to Iran about the prospect of an Israeli, or Israeli-American, strike on its nuclear program.

The second leader of Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi. (Courtesy)

Asked if the US had told Israel about its plans to go after al-Qurayshi in advance or if Israel was involved in the operation, Gantz refused to comment. “I won’t get into details about conversations with the Americans. At the end of the day, this was an American operation, an independent and important one, including actions on the ground.”

The operation came as IS has been trying for a resurgence, with a series of attacks in the region, including an assault late last month to seize a prison in northeast Syria holding at least 3,000 IS detainees, its boldest operation in years.

US special forces landed in helicopters and assaulted a house in a rebel-held corner of Syria, clashing for two hours with gunmen, witnesses said. Residents described continuous gunfire and explosions that jolted the town of Atmeh near the Turkish border, an area dotted with camps for internally displaced people from Syria’s civil war.

First responders reported that 13 people had been killed, including six children and four women. The Pentagon said no American soldiers were injured in the operation.

Biden, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and senior national security aides, monitored a live feed of the operation from the White House Situation Room, according to an official.

A child shows an empty bullet shell outside a destroyed house after an operation by the US military in the Syrian village of Atmeh, in Idlib province, Syria, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ghaith Alsayed)

The operation marked a military success for the United States at an important time after setbacks elsewhere — including the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal — have led allies and opponents to conclude US power globally was weakening.

The house, surrounded by olive trees in fields outside Atmeh, was left with its top floor shattered and blood spattered inside.

Al-Qurayshi had kept an extremely low profile since he took over leadership of the Islamic State. He had not appeared in public, and rarely released any audio recordings. His influence and day-to-day involvement in the group’s operations was not known and it is difficult to gauge how his death will affect the group.

His killing, however, is a significant blow just as the group had been trying to reassert itself in Syria and Iraq.

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