Salafist targeted in Israeli airstrike on Gaza

Palestinian media reports 1 dead, 2 hurt, as IDF acts against Hamas policeman it blames for rocket attacks on Israel

Smoke rises during an explosion from an Israeli Air Force strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises during an explosion from an Israeli Air Force strike in Gaza City, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

An Israel Air Force strike targeted a Salafist in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening.

The IDF said in a statement the incident was a targeted hit against “global Jihad-affiliated terrorists,” in conjunction with the Shin Bet security service.

Palestinian media reported one killed and two injured in the incident.

The man targeted in the attack was named by the IDF as Mohammad Awwar, 33, a Hamas policeman who also belonged to “extremist Salafi” groups responsible for attacks against Israel, IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said.

The IDF refused to confirm whether Awwar — or anybody — was killed in the attack.

Lerner added that Awwar was planning more attacks against Israel.

“This is what we were set out to stop,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

Awwar was involved in two rockets attacks on Sderot and another community near Gaza, including one during the Passover holiday on April 21, as well as an attempt to shoot down an IDF helicopter.

Awwar was reported to be riding a motorcycle at the time of the attack, according to Palestinian media.

Other Palestinian media reported the name of the killed man as Hamada Hassan Nasr or Nasrallah.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported two people were injured in the airstrike.

The raid came hours after a projectile launched from the coastal enclave caused significant damage to a major road outside a southern Israeli community, in an attack condemned by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The airstrike was the first Israeli action against Gaza since rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government earlier this month.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the strike that Awwar represented the “true face of Hamas.”

“It continues to plan terror attacks against Israeli civilians while in the Palestinian government,” he said in a statement released by his office. “I would like to remind the international community that Abbas committed to uphold all previous agreements the day he established the government with the terror group Hamas, meaning he is responsible for dismantling Hamas and other terror groups’ arsenals in Gaza.”

After the unity government was formed, Israel said it would hold the Palestinian administration in Ramallah responsible for any rocket attacks out of Gaza, signaling a policy shift.

Officials in Israel and the US said earlier in the day that Abbas must do more to prevent violence against Israeli civilians in southern Israel and disarm militants in the Gaza Strip.

No injuries were reported in the attack on the Eshkol Regional Council.

It marked the second time this week that alarm sirens have sounded in the south near the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, a rocket was fired from the Strip in the direction of Ashkelon, but landed in Palestinian territory near the security fence, causing no damage or injury.

On Saturday, a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in open areas in the Sha’ar Hanegev region, causing neither injury nor damage.

Some 140 projectiles fired by militants in the Gaza Strip have hit southern Israel since the start of 2014, according to the military.

On June 1, two rockets from Gaza hit Israel, following which the Israeli air force launched raids on the Palestinian enclave.

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