Analysis

Israel's Renewal of Targeted Killings in Gaza Sends a Message: This Round Is Different

By claiming responsibility for the killing of Hamas moneyman Hamed al-Khoudary, Israel is signaling that the an old tactic is back on the table

The scorched vehicle of Hamas moneyman Hamed al-Khoudary after he was killed in Gaza, May 5, 2019.
AFP

In a first since Israel's last Gaza campaign in 2014, the Israeli army renewed the use of one of the most significant tools against Hamas and Islamic Jihad – targeted killings.

Israel on Sunday killed Hamas activist Hamed al-Khoudary, the man in charge of transferring funds from Iran to the different factions in the Gaza Strip. The renewal of the assassinations shows Israel is making a clear statement: This round of hostilities, which began Saturday morning, is different than others prior to it in its severity and in the manner in which Jerusalem intends to respond to rocket fire.

While al-Khoudary is a central figure when it comes to fund transfers, the Israeli army understands he isn't significant to the senior ranks. However, with senior Hamas ranks in hiding and others attending ongoing talks in Cairo with representatives of the Egyptian mediation team, his killing has sent a message — Israel's targeted killings policy is back on the table.

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The Israeli army's intelligence corps is closely following the route through which Gaza factions receive their money. The Israeli defense establishment thought of al-Khoudary as a significant part of that financial lifeline.

Hertzi Halevy, the chief of the Israel Defense Forces' southern command, addressed al-Khoudary's killing on Sunday, claiming that the policy of killing terror activists "is expected to continue."

This isn't the first time a terrorist in the Gaza Strip is killed in ambiguous circumstances since Operation Protective Edge, but Israel didn't take public responsibility for the previous killings. In December 2016, a 49-year-old flight engineer was shot outside of his home in Tunisia. Mohammed al-Zoari was a member of Hamas' military wing, and one of the chiefs of the group's program dedicated to the development of UAVs.

Mazan Fukah, who was released from Israeli prison in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal, was shot to death on a Gaza beach in March 2017. Fukah funded and planned terror attacks in the West Bank and within the Green Line. At the time, Gaza media outlets reported that the assassination took place along the beach on the Strip, and that the killers used guns with silencers. The spokesman of the Palestinian police in Gaza said that Fukah was shot in the head four times. In his case, like in al-Zoari's case, the assassination was attributed to Israel by foreign media, and Jerusalem did not address the allegations publicly.

After al-Khoudary's assassination, the Israeli army said that the air force struck several terror cells and rocket launchers, and that some took a hit.

The Israeli military also targeted the private homes of senior Hamas activists, and in some of the cases the target was the advanced ammunition they hid in their houses.