IAF kills Gaza terrorist linked to Eilat rocket

Terror suspect was an expert at building rockets, say security forces; Hamas refrained from stopping him.

Palestinian police inspect scene after IAF strike, Gaza 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian police inspect scene after IAF strike, Gaza 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IAF launched an air strike on a terrorist on Tuesday, killing a figure who was associated with the global jihadi movement and whom security forces have linked to last month’s rocket attack on Eilat.
The air strike was the first of its kind since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Security forces have named the targeted man as 24-year-old Hitham Mashal, a resident of northern Gaza. Mashal was active in multiple Salafi-jihadi organizations, and was a weapons expert linked to last month’s twin rocket attack on Eilat, security forces said.
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the IDF jointly carried out Tuesday’s air strike, which occurred at 10 a.m.
“Mashal dealt in the manufacturing, upgrading and trade of firearms, particularly rockets and bombs, which he delivered to various terror organizations for profit, and to promote terrorism against the IDF and Israeli civilians,” the Shin Bet added.
Mashal provided arms to the Ashura Council of Holy Fighters in the Environs of Jerusalem, a global jihadi organization that fired rockets on Eilat and at the western Negev earlier this month.
“Mashal was involved in promoting and carrying out [the Eilat] attack,” the Shin Bet said. “His activity was known to Hamas, which refrained from stopping him.”
The targeted air strike was designed to thwart future attacks from Gaza and Sinai – attacks that are in the planning stages.
“Hamas is responsible for preventing attacks carried out, planned and advanced in Gaza,” security forces added.
Following the air strike, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “Today we struck at one of those involved in the criminal firing of rockets at Eilat. I said that we would not ignore this; our action is a continuation of our policy. We will not accept the sporadic firing of rockets from either the Gaza Strip or Sinai. We will act, and are acting, in order to defend Israeli citizens.”
Later on Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said he would consider reopening the Kerem Shalom border crossing to Gaza on Wednesday morning, if there were no additional Palestinian rocket attacks on the South.
The crossing has been closed for several days following multiple Palestinian attacks on southern towns.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.