Israeli special forces disguised as Palestinians killed the leader of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing in the northern West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday, medical and military sources said.
Troops ambushed the car of Mahmud Qassem Abu Obeid, 25, at a roundabout and sprayed the vehicle with gunfire, witnesses said, in an attack Islamic Jihad avenged with two rockets aimed at
Abu Obeid was killed just a day after Israeli police arrested an Islamic Jihad operative from Jenin at an apartment in a Tel Aviv suburb on suspicion of preparing a suicide bombing.
The Israeli army confirmed that Abu Obeid, one of the most senior wanted Islamic Jihad operatives in the northern West Bank, had been killed in his vehicle. A spokesman said he had not opened fire before troops shot him.
Military sources said Abu Obeid had dispatched the would-be suicide bomber on his mission and given him a bag of explosives.
A Jihad official on Tuesday confirmed that Omar Abu al-Rob, 23, from the village of Jalbun near Jenin, had planned to carry out an attack.
Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for all recent suicide bombings inside Israel, including the last such attack on January 29, when a bomber from the
Gaza Strip killed three people in a bakery in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
Abu Ahmed, a spokesman in the Gaza Strip for the Iranian-linked group, threatened “a violent response at the heart of the Zionist entity” to avenge the killing of Abu Obeid.
Shortly afterwards, the faction said it fired two rockets from Gaza into Israel “as a first response.”
The army said one rocket slammed to the ground near an Israeli community without causing damage, but the second backfired into the Mediterranean.
Abu Obeid’s death brings to 5,642 the number of people killed since the start of the second Palestinian intifada or uprising in September 2000, most of them Palestinians, according to an AFP count.
In December, Israel’s supreme court refused to ban the army’s controversial policy of targeted killings of suspected militants, saying their legality should be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Since the start of the intifada, around 340 Palestinians have been slain in such targeted killings, although about a third of them were bystanders, according to the B’Tselem human rights group.
On February 12, the United States offered a five million dollar reward for the capture of Damascus-based Jihad leader Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, accusing him of racketeering, murder, extorsion and money-laundering.
Meanwhile, a 33-year-old Palestinian man died in a mysterious explosion near his home in a Gaza Strip village near the security fence with Israel, medics said.