On Tuesday, Israel killed a major Palestinian militant leader in a surgical strike in Gaza. Bahaa Abu al-Ata, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, was accused of planning rocket and other attacks against Israel over the past few years.
Since the strike, tensions have flared up between Israel and Gaza, with the Associated Press reporting 18 Palestinian deaths caused by Israeli bombardment on Wednesday. Over 250 rockets from Gaza have been fired towards Israeli territory, the Israeli military has said.
Who was Bahaa Abu al-Ata?
Al-Ata was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant outfit that has been jostling for space with Hamas, the armed group that rules the Gaza strip.
The Islamic Jihad group’s armed wing, the al-Quds (Jerusalem) Brigades, is only exceeded in strength by Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigades, ‘Al Jazeera’ reported.
The 42-year-old Al-Ata played a major role in the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the group said after his death.
According to ‘The Jerusalem Post’, Al-Ata was a household name in Gaza, and had been on Israel’s hit list for years, being accused of plotting rocket fire, drone, and sniper attacks into Israeli territory.
The newspaper reported that the Israeli establishment had a year ago desisted from planning a strike against him, but had finally decided to act this year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu persuaded senior defence officials.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was given the green signal to carry out a strike against Al-Ata 10 days ago, ‘The Jerusalem Post’ said.
‘Al Jazeera’ said that al-Ata had survived multiple assassination attempts in the past.
The strike that claimed Al-Ata also killed his wife and injured two of his children. Large crowds participated in his funeral procession, ‘NBC News’ reported.
Israel simultaneously carried out a strike in Syria, where it unsuccessfully tried to eliminate another Islamic Jihad operative, Akram al-Ajouri. The strike in Damascus caused the death of one of Al-Ajouri’s children.
What is going on in Gaza?
The Gaza Strip, a part of the Palestinian territories, is a narrow area with a population of 20 lakh, and has been under a blockade by its neighbours Israel and Egypt for over 10 years. Freedom of movement for locals is severely limited, and the situation is widely considered to be a humanitarian crisis.
A war between Gaza and Israel in 2014 claimed over 2,250 Palestinians and 66 Israeli lives. Over the years, Israel has accused Gaza-based groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad of launching terror and drone attacks on Israeli communities near the border.
The groups are allegedly supported by Iran, Israel’s major rival in the region, which supplies to the former money and weapons.