When Israeli Defense Forces killed a central figure in the Hamas military leadership Wednesday in an airstrike, they killed a man who took painstaking care to avoid detection.
Ahmed Jabari (or Ahmad Ja’abari) died today in Gaza City when an IDF rocket reduced his car to charred wreckage, The Washington Post reported.
The 52-year-old Jabari was deputy leader of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Jabari was “directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years,” the IDF said, according to The Guardian.
He’s the highest-ranking casualty since 2008, when Israel launched a three-week assault in Gaza called Operation Cast Lead that killed roughly 1,400 Palestinians. Hamas vowed revenge for Jabari’s death.
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“This assassination is a serious crime, and they crossed the red line. It’s time to declare war,” Hamas representative Fauzi Barhoum said, according to The Post.
He was among Isarel’s “most wanted” after he emerged as a central figure in the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit six years ago, Fox News said.
Cameras filmed as Jabari personally escorted Schalit last year to Egyptian mediators during a prisoner exchange.
The New York Times cited Israeli media reports that Jabari’s son was with him in the car when it exploded.
Until his death, Jabari did all he could to avoid being seen in public, Al Arabiya reported last year.
Born in Gaza City into an activist family, Jabari studied history at Islamic University. He joined the secular Palestinian political movement Fatah, but Israel arrested him in 1982 for planning attacks on Israel.
It was while serving a 13-year prison sentence that he met leaders of the more extreme Hamas, Al Jazeera reported.
He was also arrested in 1998 by Palestinian authorities and spent two years in prison for his connections to Hamas.
Since then, he’s been seen occasionally in Gaza, but those close to him said he didn’t even carry a cellphone.
“He moves very carefully, without an escort or convoy,” a friend told AFP. “He approaches anything that might pose a risk, even one in a million, with extreme caution. … The way he carries himself is the secret to his longevity.”
Jabari had two wives. His brother and oldest son, Mohammed, died during a 2004 Israeli airstrike.
Israel’s intelligence service said Jabari played a pivotal role in Hamas’ takeover in Gaza five years ago, Reuters reported.
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