Israel and Hamas waged war on Twitter yesterday as a pinpoint Israeli airstrike blew up the one of the top Hamas military commanders in Gaza.
Ahmed Jabari, the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago, was travelling in a car in Gaza city when it was struck by a rocket and exploded.The entire event was played out online, with Israel and Hamas both using Twitter to provide updates on the latest round of cross-border violence.
Video of the attack was posted online by the Israeli Defense Forces as they provided live updates of their operation Pillar of Defense on terror targets in Gaza.Jabari, 46, had long topped Israel’s most-wanted list and was notorious in Israel, which blamed him for in a string of bloody attacks, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006.
Last night there were fears the region was on the verge of a full-scale war as both sides traded threats in the aftermath of the assassination of Jabari.The 46-year-old, who ran ruling Hamas’s armed wing, Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, or the Alqassam Brigades, was travelling in a car in Gaza City when it exploded in the drone attack, killing him and a passenger.Panicking civilians ran for cover and the death toll mounted quickly. At least four people, including two girls under the age of five, were killed, officials said.
Hamas said Israel had ‘opened the gates of hell’ with the attack.Plumes of smoke rose last night as Israel continued the air strikes and warned of further assassinations. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his military was ‘prepared to expand’ the Gaza operation as the navy began pounding the enclave last night.Gunfire echoed round the streets of Gaza as immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and smaller groups also warned of retaliation. Fighters spoke of an escalation of attacks on Israel, which could trigger a war drawing in Hezbollah and Lebanon, already a frontier of the conflict in Syria.
Israel had immediately admitted responsibility for the attack and said Jabari had been behind ‘all terrorist activities against Israel from Gaza’ in the past decade.‘The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership,’ the Israeli military said in a statement.Immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and smaller groups also warned of retaliation.‘Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,’ Islamic Jihad said.But it was the chilling playing out of the war on Twitter that gave a new twist to yesterday’s events.
The IDF announced on Twitter: ‘We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.’The Alqassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas) retaliated, tweeting ‘Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)’.The killing was a dramatic resumption of Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian militant leaders and military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitch said the attack is the ‘start of a broader operation’ – seen as a clear indication attacks on more Hamas leaders are planned.
Jabari was blamed by Israel for a recent wave of heavy rocket fire into the country from Gaza.The Israeli military has already carried out retaliatory air strikes in Gaza and there were three more reported attacks yesterday on other targets in Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah.Since Saturday, four Palestinian civilians and three militants, including Jabari, have been killed in Gaza, and dozens injured. Eight Israelis have also been hurt.Israeli military officials said Jabari was identified by ‘precise intelligence’ gathered over several months.
Gunfire echoed round the streets of Gaza last night as Hamas fighters spoke of revenge and an escalation of attacks into Israel which could trigger another war in the region, drawing in Hezbollah and Lebanon, already a frontier of the conflict in Syria.The killings come amid warnings Israel may try to topple President Mahmoud Abbas if he carries out a plan to ask the United Nations this month to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority, an official said yesterday.
There were three more reported attacks yesterday on other targets in Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah. Since Saturday, several Palestinians and militants have been killed and dozens injured. At least eight Israelis have also been hurt.Israel’s Shin Bet security service said it was behind the attack on Jabari, saying he had organised ‘all terrorist activities against Israel from Gaza’ in the past decade.The upgrade would give the Palestinians a place in the world body similar to that of the Vatican – short of full membership as a sovereign state but as close as they can get without the full recognition that Israel says can only come from a peace treaty.
A draft document from the office of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, said Israel must confront this challenge by means that could include ‘toppling (Abbas) and dismantling the Palestinian Authority’.Newspaper reports say Israel instructed its ambassadors to warn it may revoke all or part of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which set up the Palestinian Authority under an interim peace agreement.
The Palestinians are currently an observer ‘entity’ at the United Nations. An upgrade could grant them access to bodies such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where they might file legal suits against Israel.Targeted killings are controversial but advocates say they are an effective deterrent without the complications associated with a ground operation, chiefly civilian and Israeli troop casualties. Proponents argue they also prevent future attacks by removing their masterminds.Critics say they invite retaliation by militants and encourage them to try to assassinate Israeli leaders. They complain that the strikes amount to extrajudicial killings.
During a wave of suicide bombings against Israel a decade ago, the country employed the tactic to eliminate the upper echelon of Hamas leadership.Israeli aircraft have previously assassinated the previous commander of Hamas’ military wing, Salah Shehadeh, the movement’s spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, and dozens of other senior Hamas military commanders.Hamas has governed Gaza since 2007 and does not recognise Israel’s right to exist. It has been emboldened by the rise to power in neighbouring Egypt of its spiritual mentors in the Muslim Brotherhood whom it views as a ‘safety net’.Israel last staged a full-scale attack on Gaza during a three week conflict in 2008 and 2009 in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. – Dailymail