The IDF reinforced its troops and prepared for multiple possible situations. Shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled as a “severe security event.” Ashdod is in a state of emergency.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Israel was responsible for the airstrike which killed Al-Ata, who it described as a “senior Islamic Jihad commander” who master-minded “numerous terrorist attacks and rocket attacks against the State of Israel in recent months and who intended to immediately carry out further attacks.”
The security cabinet will meet at 9 a.m. in Tel Aviv. The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories closed the Erez and Kerem HaShalom Crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip and restricted the fishing zone Palestinians can enter off the coast of Gaza.
IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Hidai Zilberman confirmed Tuesday morning that the military had received specific intelligence on his location and targeted the specific room where al-Ata was sleeping and did not destroy the entire building in order to avoid civilian casualties.
Zilberman stressed that while the operation to kill Al-Ata was approved by the IDF Chief-of-Staff, the head of the Shin Bet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet, the IDF was not returning to a policy of targeted killings.
“Over the past few months the IDF warned several times, and in various ways, that he should stop his activities,” Zilberman said. “The Chief of Staff decided on this operation because there was no other way.”
The IDF reinforced its troop deployment near Gaza and said it was prepared for multiple developments. Bomb shelters in Ashkelon were opened and school was canceled for children in the area due to the expected heavy rocket fire. Ashdod declared a state of emergency and the city said it is opening public shelters.
The operation against Al-Ata was approved by the security cabinet led by by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who also serves as Israel’s Defense Minister. It was done after consultations with the IDF top brass in a joint operation with the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Islamic Jihad confirmed that Abu Al-Ata was killed. The group said that one missile hit Abu al-Ata’s house, killing him and his wife instantly. Two of his children were seriously wounded and rushed to hospital, it added.
The Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health confirmed that two Palestinians were killed in the Israeli attack early Tuesday.
Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al Nakhaleh, based in Lebanon, said in response to the assassination that Netanyahu has “crossed all red lines.”
“We are going to war,” Nakhalaeh said.
The PIJ’s Al-Quds Brigade declared that the terrorist group was on the highest level of alert after the assassination.
The Hamas terrorist movement warned as well that the assassination “will not go unpunished.”
Islamic Jihad’s military wing, Al-Quds Brigades, said in a statement that Abu al-Ata, commander of the northern Gaza Strip, was “martyred while performing heroic jihad (holy war) to thwart conspiracies and defend the land.”
The group vowed to continue in the footsteps of its slain commander in order to “complete the process of liberation of the entire beloved Palestine. Our response will inevitably shock the Zionist entity.”
The military says that it expects a strong response from the PIJ following the strike, including rocket fire towards central Israel and has urged residents of southern Israel to stay close to bomb shelters.
Smoke was seen rising from the scene before 5 a.m.
Israeli said that the operation was launched to stop Abu Al-Ata who was in the midst of launching a series of attacks against against Israeli civilians and IDF troops, including preparations for sniper and kidnapping attacks, killer drone attacks, and preparations for rocket fire throughout Israel.
Train service was temporarily canceled between Ashkelon and Beersheba and at the Sderot, Netivot and Ofakim stations.
The IDF Home Front Command released directives for the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and the Dan and Shfela region of central Israel. Gatherings in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip may only include up to 100 people in closed places. In Lahish and the central Negev, gatherings may include up to 300 people and in central Israel they may include up to 1,000 people in open areas and are without restrictions in closed areas.
Non-vital work will not take place in areas surrounding the Gaza Strip. Roads near the border fence will be closed.
“[Abu Al-Ata] and his activities were a time bomb that violated the understandings and undermined security, and the State of Israel therefore carried out an activity to remove this threat and prevent continued attempts to undermine stability and security,” wrote COGAT on Twitter.
The head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s (PIJ) Al-Quds Brigades in Gaza, Baha Abu al-Ata was considered one of the top terrorists in the blockaded coastal enclave. He had been involved in planning attacks against Israel, manufacturing arms and upgrading long-range rocket launching capabilities.
The second largest group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, PIJ has been assessed by military intelligence as a factor increasing the risk of an escalation in the blockaded coastal enclave, since it is not under the direct control of Hamas but acts independently for its own interests.