Targeted killing in Gaza Jan. 11, 2011 (Reuters)
Gazans gathering around the scene of Tuesday's targeted killing. Photo by Reuters
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The IDF killed a key member of Islamic Jihad near the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip yesterday afternoon. In a combined operation with the Shin Bet security service, Mohammed al-Najar, 25, was targeted by a missile fired from an aircraft.

Military sources said he was preparing bombing attacks inside Israel and in recent weeks had been involved in the intensified rocket attacks against Israeli communities bordering the Gaza Strip. Even though he was relatively young, Najar was considered to be major force in the group, and had been injured during Operation Cast Lead two years ago.

It was the third targeted killing of a militant in the Gaza Strip in the middle of the day in recent months. However the other two killings targeted members of the Army of Islam, which opposes Hamas rule. Unlike them, Najar, a member of Islamic Jihad, operated in the past two months in cooperation with Hamas.

Hamas has recently allowed groups like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees to attack IDF patrols along the border fence and to launch rocket attacks against Israel.

If the assassination was the IDF's way of sending a message to Hamas, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also issued a warning yesterday during a visit with soldiers of Battalion 202 of the Paratrooper Brigade, which lost a soldier during the weekend, Nadav Rotenberg, in an accidental firing of an IDF mortar during an engagement with militants.

"I recommend that they do not test us because in the end they will suffer more damage," Barak said, but refused to comment on the assassination of Najar. "We are now two years after Operation Cast Lead. We have achieved calm, but we see that in recent days there has been an increase in the number of rockets being fired at Israel and militants are trying to reach the fence, but because of the quality of our response, we manage to prevent them."

Defense establishment sources believe that Hamas has now decided to stem the escalation in order to prevent a sharper response from the IDF that would target the group's efforts to rebuild its military capabilities.

A Qassam rocket was fired yesterday toward Ashkelon. It landed in empty fields and caused no casualties or damage.