Israel planned to assassinate Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, but changed course and targeted the organization’s chief of staff, Ahmed Jabari, instead, the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reported on Monday.
According to the report, which put forth purported new details of the November 14 assassination that sparked Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, Jabari’s location was pinpointed by Israel after several Hamas leaders acted “recklessly” and used unsecure phone lines to make calls.
Quoting an unidentified source, the report said that Haniyeh and top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar were angry at Jabari for ordering a search of Haniyeh’s home — he was allegedly ordered to do so by Khaled Mashaal, the political head of the group — due to his suspicions regarding the prime minister’s ongoing relations with Iran, including over the Islamic republic’s financial patronage of the group. Mashaal and the other foreign-based leadership of Hamas, historically believed to be more radical than the Gaza-based cadre, had cooled ties with Tehran over its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad during the bloody Syrian uprising.
The fact that Jabari searched Haniyeh’s house prompted a great deal of friction between him and the leaders, the source said, causing “internal bickering and disagreements,” and resulting in several “careless phone calls” that Israel intercepted, enabling it to find three of Jabari’s hideouts, as well as three cars that he used.
Jabari was believed to have a personal security detail that rivaled that of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. He had spent much of his time in bunkers and in hiding, and he didn’t carry a cell phone, thus earning the name “Ghost” among Israeli intelligence circles (he was referred to as “General” in Gaza).
Married to two women, and the father of 14 children, Jabari did not take many chances — until one fatal mistake led Israel to the infamous commander of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades — despite his Iranian-trained bodyguards and armored cars, the article noted.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, an Israeli agent who had managed to locate Jabari said there would be a window of about 30 seconds when Jabari’s vehicle would be on one of Gaza’s main roads, before he entered his replacement car. “Unknown to Jabari, the silver Kia sedan that he was about to enter, one of 10 cars in which he traveled, carried an Israeli tracking device,” the report stated. At 3:55 p.m., with the words “kill the bastard,” Israel Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel was said to have given the order, and two Predator drones fired missiles at the car. Jabari, one of Hamas’s most influential leaders, as well as his son, were killed on the spot.