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Breaking: IDF, Shin Bet Kill 3 Top-Level Hamas Commanders Overnight

Both Israel and Hamas have confirmed that overnight an Israeli airstrike on a building in Rafah in southern Gaza killed three top Hamas commanders: Raed al-Attar, Mohammed Abu Shamala and Mohammad Barhoum.

Ynet described Abu Shamala and al-Attar to be “two of the most senior commanders in the al-Qassam Brigades.”

Al-Attar was close to Ahmed Jabari, who was killed at the outset of Operation Pillar of Defense. Ynet reports that he “planned and commanded” the 2006 kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and killing of three other soldiers. Al Attar was also involved in building of the terror tunnels and was an early proponent of the tactic.

Abu Shamalah was also involved in the Shalit kidnapping. Other terror attacks he was involved in include the killing of an IDF officer in Gaza in 1994, terror tunnel attacks in 2004, and, during Operation Protective Edge, the attempt of 13 terrorists to infiltrate and attack Israel through a terror tunnel.

Barhoum “spent many years in Syria and Libya, and was responsible for the transfer of money to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.”

In The Times of Israel, Avi Issacharoff writes that, given the importance of the three terrorists, the strike was enabled by an impressive intelligence capabilities.

The Shin Bet, as the intelligence behind the strike, and the IDF, as the operational arm, targeted the trio in a building in a crowded Rafah neighborhood on one of the heaviest days of fighting thus far. Thus this was a very different strike from the one at the start of the Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012 when the Hamas military commander, Ahmed Jabari, was assassinated in a surprise attack that marked the beginning of that operation. Given that the fighting had re-escalated since Tuesday, and that Israel was known to be trying to hit the Hamas military leadership, the three had taken every possible precaution to evade Israeli intelligence. Those precautions simply were not good enough.

It can be assumed that whether or not Muhammad Deif is still alive, those members of the Hamas military leadership who have survived are now desperately trying to figure out what went wrong. How could it be that after long weeks in which Israel was unable to get to any of the heads of the military wing, now, within 48 hours, the Shin Bet located one of Deif’s hideouts and killed three other members of the Hamas general staff?

Issacharoff writes that Abu Shamala and al-Attar were “part of the founding generation of the Hamas military wing” along with Mohammad Deif, and that the “elimination of the three leaves a big hole in the Hamas command structure in southern Gaza.” The two were also responsible for an attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai.

Ynet reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that all three “were planning deadly attacks against Israeli citizens.”

[Photo: Screencap from Ynet ]