Abdallah Kharti, the terror suspect targeted in an IDF missile strike on Sunday, is seen by Israeli intelligence as a key link in a Salafi-jihadi terrorist network that spans the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.
The IDF’s attack is not a retaliation against the drizzle of Palestinian rockets on southern Israel in recent days.
Since Thursday, Gazan terrorists have fired three rockets at southern areas, and in a break from a long-standing pattern, Israel did not immediately respond to those attacks.
According to intelligence data, Kharti played a central role in setting up the terrorist infrastructure in Sinai, which has been firing rockets at Eilat sporadically in recent months, including the most recent rocket attack, launched on January 31, and intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket battery.
In Gaza, Kharti is a member of the Popular Resistance Committees, but he apparently wears more than one hat. In Sinai, he is affiliated with the al-Qaida- inspired Ansar Beit Al-Maqdes group, which has been targeting both Israel and Egyptian security forces.
The border region where Gaza, Israel and Egypt meet is where Kharti is believed to have been most active, and he is a firm believer in the radical Salafi ideology, a doctrine that calls for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and rejects all other political systems.
Security sources said the decision to fire a missile at him was taken as soon as an opportune moment presented itself. The attempted strike is a reminder that Gaza is a base not only for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism but also for a growing al-Qaida-affiliated presence as well. According to Israeli intelligence estimates, there are hundreds of Salafi-jihadis in Gaza armed with rockets, and many move between Sinai in Gaza regularly.
Hamas has attempted to persuade these factions to refrain from endangering it by provoking an Israeli response against Gaza’s regime, but it has also signaled to the groups that they are otherwise free to attack Israel as they please.
Hamas is engaged in a dangerous balancing act, based on the twin shortterm goals of preventing a showdown with the Salafi groups on one side, and avoiding the wrath of Israel and Egypt on the other.
Israel has warned the Gazan Islamist regime that a failure to reign in future attackers will lead to Hamas facing the IDF’s firepower.