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Terror masters: The Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders targeted by Israel

The assassination of senior PIJ figures came in response to recent rocket fire emanating from the Gaza Strip for which PIJ was responsible.

Palestinian Arabs gather near a damaged house after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 9, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Palestinian Arabs gather near a damaged house after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 9, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.

In response to recent rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel overnight Monday eliminated three Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in what the Israel Defense Forces has dubbed “Operation Shield and Arrow.”

The three terrorists have been identified by the IDF as Jahed Ahnam, Khalil Bahitini and Tarek Azaldin.

Jahed Ahnam, 62, served as secretary of the PIJ Military Council, and had also served as commander of PIJ’ Southern Gaza Brigade. He was one of the most senior, and longest-surviving, members of the terror group, according to the IDF.

CNN reported that Ahnam had been wanted for more than 20 years, survived five assassination attempts, and been wounded in IDF attacks in the past.

In his last position, he coordinated weapons and money transfers between Hamas and PIJ, and promoted terrorism in Gaza, Judea and Samaria and abroad.

He was a resident of Rafah.

Khalil Bahitini, 44, was PIJ’s senior operational officer and the commander of the Northern Gaza Division. He was responsible for the rocket fire toward Israel over the past month, according to the IDF.

Bahitini started his terrorist career in PIJ in the late 1990s. Throughout the years, he was involved in many terrorist acts against Israel, including suicide bombings, rocket fire and directing activities in Judea and Samaria.

After IDF operation “Breaking Dawn” eliminated Tayseer Jabri in August 2022, Bahitini took over his position.

Bahitini was a member of the PIJ’s military council and had direct contact with senior members of its politburo.

He lived in Gaza City.

Tarek Azaldin, 49, another senior PIJ operative, had recently planned and directed multiple attacks against Israeli civilians, the IDF said.

Azaldin had moved up the ranks of the organization in recent years, and was entrusted with coordinating PIJ’s terrorist activities in Judea and Samaria as well as transferring funds from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, according to the IDF.

He was also in charge of distributing the group’s propaganda in Israel to promote and encourage terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

Azaldin had been incarcerated in Israel on a 25-year sentence due to his involvement in suicide and IED (improvised explosive device) attacks in the early 2000s.

Israel’s Channel 11 reported that he was released in 2011 as part of the Shalit prisoner-exchange deal.

He originally came from A’arbe in Samaria.

As part of “Operation Shield and Arrow,” the IDF also targeted 10 PIJ weapon manufacturing sites and military compounds.

These included rocket production workshops in Khan Yunis, a site used for manufacturing concrete for building terrorist tunnels, and six military compounds, most used as weapon warehouses and logistic infrastructures.

Additionally, the IDF targeted a military post belonging to PIJ in southern Gaza.

Although Hamas was not targeted in the attack, it released a statement Tuesday threatening Israel.

“As we hold the Zionist occupation and its extremist, fascist government fully responsible for the consequences of this heinous crime, we reiterate that the Israeli crimes and escalating terrorism against the Palestinian people will not go unpunished.

“The Israeli offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip will not bring peace and security to the Israeli occupation state, but would encourage more resistance until liberation and return.”

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