IDF Planned to Capture Hamas Leader in 2008 as Leverage for Gilad Shalit's Release

Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in an Israeli air strike last November, was not abducted because his driver took an unexpected route, Walla reports.

The Israel Defense Forces planned to capture Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, more than four years before the IDF killed him in an air strike last November. Their intention was to use him as leverage to secure the release of Gilad Shalit. The IDF even temporarily deployed troops in Gaza City to carry out the abduction.

As reported by Avi Issacharoff on Thursday on the website Walla, the IDF and Shin Bet security service had intelligence showing that Jabari habitually returned from visits to one of his wives by car and without a security detail. Israel therefore sought to capture Jabari and use him as a bargaining chip for the release of Shalit, the Israeli soldier in Hamas captivity between June 2006 and October 2011.

According to sources quoted by Walla, the chances were high that Jabari would be taken alive. At one point, soldiers from the designated unit prepared to enter the Strip but were soon ordered to retreat.

Several days later, the soldiers returned to their forward positions and toward evening moved toward the Strip. Hours later, the soldiers entered Gaza City and took up their designated positions.

Senior officials at the time – Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin – were standing by in Tel Aviv as the operation's commanders gathered in the Shin Bet's operations room to monitor the progress. But Jabari's driver did not stop at an area where the Israelis had expected him to, so the IDF force was ordered to retreat.

The strike that killed Jabari in November 2012 came as part of the IDF's Pillar of Defense offensive in response to rocket fire from Gaza.