GP Insights # 186, 16 November 2019
Israel defence forces (IDF) assassinated Baha Abu al-Ata, a top commander of Islamic Jihad (IJ) in an airstrike on Tuesday during this week, leading to an escalation between the militant group and the security forces in Gaza and Israel. 34 Palestinians have been during the week. Investigations are being carried out into one of Israel's strikes that killed eight members of a family, including children.
Though a ceasefire brokered by Egypt ended the flare-up, two rockets were fired into Israel reportedly by rebel factions in Hamas on Saturday.
What is the background?
Iran backed, Islamic Jihad's BahaAbu al-Ata, "a ticking bomb", had launched several attacks against Israel in recent months. Along with his wife, the commander was killed in a precision strike by Israel. The Islamic Jihad has termed it as a 'declaration of war' and launched several rockets into Israel; most of them were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome system. The Israeli Defence Force further carried out strikes against the group's military assets and members.
Hamas, the militant faction that administers the Gaza strip has condemned Israel for the attack but mostly stayed out from escalating the situation further despite its relationship with Islamic Jihad. For months Hamas and Israel have been working on a long-term agreement to end armed hostilities and lift the economic blockade on Gaza. Several attempts were made by the dead commander to derail the talks.
On Saturday, rebel factions within the Hamas have fired rockets, and in retaliation, Israel retaliated on the Hamas targets, ending ceasefire brokered by Egypt into uncertainty.
What does it mean?
The assassination of the Baha Abu al-Ata did remove an obstacle in Israel-Hamas' attempts to reach an agreement. However, the escalation that resulted in civilian casualties is likely to draw Hamas into a conflict with Israel again. Unless there is a consensus within militant factions in Gaza, any agreement with Israel would be shaky.