Three high-ranking, veteran Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders were taken down in a major IDF operation in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, May 9. The organization’s entire military infrastructure was wiped out. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, announcing Defense and Arrow Operation, called up reserve forces as needed and placed the home front on “special status.” The prime minister called the security cabinet into session post factum at 1700 hours on Tuesday.
Traffic was halted south of Ashkelon as well as rail service to Sderot. The Home Command published special directives for the civilian population within range of the Gaza Strip in force until May 10. Shelters were opened in towns and schools shuttered. The new plan enabling the evacuation of civilians went into effect for the first time. All Gaza crossings were closed.
The operation was conducted by 40 fighter jets and attack helicopters in retaliation for last month’s 100-rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip that targeted neighboring Israeli locations, as well as striking at the roots of surging terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, for which Israel holds the Islamic Jihad responsible. The Hamas terrorist group was informed it had been given a free pass this time.
The operation, scripted by the Shin Bet, took out top Jihad commanders: Halil Bahitini, 44, a local Gazan, who directed the rocket offensive last month and had promoted suicide terrorism for years; Tarik Iz-a-Din, 49, from Araba, Samaria, who directed West Bank funding transfers and orchestrated terror strikes inside Israel. Sentenced to 25 years in jail, he was freed under the Shalit prisoner exchange. The third target was Jihad Ghanem, 62, from Rafah, secretary of the organization’s military council and veteran plotter of terrorist attacks from Gaza, on the West Bank and overseas. In his last job, he coordinated the transfer of moneys and weapons between Jihad and Hamas.
Altogether ten Jihad military sites and production plants were razed in IDF airstrikes by planes and attack helicopters. They included workshops for manufacturing rockets in Khan Younes and cement plants for building tunnels, as well as weapons storehouses, a military position and logistic networks. The Palestinians claimed 12 people were killed in the Israeli raid including civilians.