Baha Abu al-Ata, who was until his death on Tuesday a senior commander in the Al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad terror group’s military wing, was not a widely known figure a year ago.
But since the Kan public broadcaster reported on him in January 2019, he has become somewhat of a household name among Israelis and Palestinians closely following the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad.
Israel eliminated Abu al-Ata, 42, on Tuesday morning in a dawn strike on a building in the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, according to the IDF, which said he was planning an “imminent” attack. His 39-year-old wife, Asma, was also killed in the hit, the Hamas-run health ministry said.
Abu al-Ata was the commander of the Al-Quds Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip and played “a prominent role in supervising the execution of many operations that the Al-Quds Brigades carried out against the enemy,” Islamic Jihad’s military wing said on Tuesday.
Abu al-Ata was planning to carry out rocket attacks and other terrorist activities against Israel in the near future and had been directly responsible for several cases of rocket fire over the past six months, the IDF said on Tuesday.
“We know that he was behind most and almost all of the Islamic Jihad’s attacks against Israel going back to the 25 of August , including before Memorial Day” this year, IDF spokesman Jonathan Conricus said, referring to several cases of rocket strikes.
In the past year, terror groups in Gaza including Islamic Jihad have fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, which has responded by targeting their infrastructure and some of their members.
Conricus added that the IDF had sent a number of warnings to Abu al-Ata — through unidentified mediators — to call off his operations, but they went unheeded.
“We tried to send a message to Abu al-Ata and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad that we are aware of his acts and to persuade him to stop these attacks. Obviously, these warnings were not successful,” he said, adding that the army did not believe that he was acting on the orders of Iran but was “more a local terrorist who acted unchecked.”
Israeli military officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, hinted at having Abu al-Ata on their kill list in recent weeks.
Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet security service, said in a televised statement on Tuesday that the senior Islamic Jihad commander “rejected the understanding reached between Israel and Hamas.”
In the past year, Israel and Hamas have reached several informal ceasefires, which have largely entailed the Jewish state lifting some restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza in exchange for the the terror group limiting cross-border violence.
Abu al-Ata was wounded during Operation Pillar of Defense, a week-long war between Israel and terror groups in Gaza in 2012, and had survived several elimination attempts, according to the Al-Quds Brigades.
He was born on November 25, 1977, in Shejaiya, a report posted on Islamic Jihad’s website on Tuesday stated.
Abu al-Ata, who left behind five children ages 10 through 19, joined the Al-Quds Brigades in 1990, the report said, adding that he possessed a “flaming volcano” inside of him with regard to Israel and loved “fighting and resistance.”
He also was arrested by the Palestinian Authority, which used to control Gaza until Hamas took it over in 2007, on a number of occasions for “his military activities in the Al-Quds Brigades,” the report also stated.
In early November, Kan reported that he was in direct contact with Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala.
The channel also said that unnamed Palestinian sources described him as “unpredictable.”