GAZA City, Palestine
Palestinian analysts believe that the Israeli assassination of Bahaa Abu al-Atta, a senior military commander of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, serves the political, military and security goals that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to achieve.
Amid uncertainty of his political future, Netanyahu — who failed to form the government and faces corruption charges — has many interests in escalating the situation with Gaza, they also agreed.
The analysts, who spoke to Anadolu Agency believe that developments in the field will decide the scale of the escalation depending on the Palestinian armed groups’ military capability and the nature of the response to the assassination.
On Tuesday, Israel announced that it killed Abu al-Atta in an airstrike on his house east of Gaza city, accusing him of carrying out cross-border attacks and planning more.
Abu al-Atta’s assassination coincided with another Israeli assassination attempt which targeted Akram al-Ajouri, a member of the Islamic Jihad group in Damascus, Syria. But although al-Ajouri survived the airstrike, his son and another civilian were killed.
Politically derived time
Adnan Abu Amer, a Palestinian analyst and expert in Israeli affairs, said the timing of this assassination was not spontaneous, adding it is derived from Netanyahu’s political interests.
“All indications say that Netanyahu suggested the assassination for political and electoral purposes,” Abu Amer said.
He also said that Abu al-Atta was on Israel’s wanted list for years, but Netanyahu chose this time to serve his political agenda and as a way out for him to escape persecution over his corruption cases in case he fails to lead or form the next Israeli government.
Mahmoud Mardawi, a Palestinian analyst, agreed on the same motives for Netanyahu to conduct such an assassination.
“Despite confirmation by the Israeli army’s Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, that the assassination was based on security assessments, the final approval of such an operation comes from Netanyahu as prime minister,” Mardawi said.
“Netanyahu won’t approve such an operation unless it serves his political and electoral purposes at this time.”
Mardawi suggested that Netanyahu wanted from this assassination to get rid of his political rival, Benny Gantz.
Security derived operation
Contrary to Abu Amer’s analysis, writer Said Besharat said that Israel conducted this operation for security purposes. Besharat says that Israel believes Abu al-Atta is an Iranian “proxy” in Gaza that must be neutralized.
Besharat believes that the assassination attempt on Akram al-Ajouri in Damascus is in line with this security assessment.
He added that Israel carried out the two assassination attempts for one reason, which is ending rocket launches from Gaza.
Abu Amer commented on the coinciding of both assassination attempts in Gaza and Damascus as something striking and said it is clear that Israel is focusing on the Islamic Jihad group to degrade its capabilities and force it to stop firing rockets.
He expected that targeting Islamic Jihad will have consequences and “if the group feels it is being targeted directly, it will escalate the situation.”
Driving a wedge between Palestinian groups
Abu Amer indicated that Israel tries to drive a wedge between Palestinian groups. Since, the Israeli media claims that Hamas wants a truce while Islamic Jihad does not.
However, Abu Amer ruled out that Israel will benefit from this policy as there is a common Palestinian stance towards accepting the truce.
He said Israel is seeking to keep Hamas out of the current confrontation with Islamic Jihad.
Abu Amer expects that the Palestinian resistance groups will not allow Israel to impose new realities on the ground. “It is the first officially declared assassination since 2012 when Israel assassinated Ahmed al-Jabari, who was second-in-command of Hamas’ military wing of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.”
Besharat also ruled out that Israel would return to assassination policies. He considered the recent assassination as a limited operation and said there are no indications that Israel plans to resume assassinations of militant leaders.
Mardawi opined also that widening the escalation depends on field developments in regard to the nature and bulk of Palestinian retaliation to the assassination as well as the Israeli response to any Palestinian military action.
Mardawi said the Palestinian armed groups do not want an escalation that could lead to a fourth war on Gaza but at the same time he confirmed that the Palestinian resistance groups will not let this assassination pass with no reaction.
On the issue of mediators’ efforts to resume the state of calmness in Gaza, Mardawi said the Egyptians are in permanent contact with Palestinian groups to avoid any escalation that could lead to a major offensive.
A cease-fire was reached in Gaza on Thursday following two days of bloody Israeli escalation.
The Islamic Jihad group said it will hold fire after Israel agreed to an Egyptian-mediated truce.An Israeli military spokesman also confirmed the cease-fire.
The escalation left 34 Palestinians dead, including eight children and three women, and more than 111 injured, including 46 children and 20 women.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this analysis from Ankara
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