barak shhhh 224.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
It sounds almost like a scene out of a Hollywood action movie. Soldiers disguised as Hamas militiamen abduct a senior Hamas terrorist who stops in the middle of a road in southern Gaza after an "old man" leaning on a cane collapses in front of his car.
If the Palestinian reports are true, then elite Israeli forces penetrated deep into the heart of Rafah late Friday night to nab Mohawah al-Qadi, a senior member of Hamas's armed wing and a commander in the Executive Force believed to be connected to last year's kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Schalit.
According to the Palestinian reports, Qadi was abducted by Israeli forces and then taken to the abandoned Dahiniye Airport, where he was picked up by an IAF helicopter and transported into Israel.
While the details of the operation are fascinating, its timing is also of immense importance. The alleged abduction took place two nights after IAF fighter jets allegedly infiltrated Syrian airspace late Wednesday night.
While it is still unclear what happened over the coastal city of Latakia, if anything at all, the alleged Syrian flyover - as well as the alleged IDF abduction - have one thing in common: they are both mysterious operations, the type of which have the potential of restoring Israel's deterrence in the eyes of its enemies.
Israel is officially refusing to comment on either incident and prefers in both cases to leave the public in the dark.
While praising the IDF's "outstanding bravery and incessant work," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the cabinet meeting on Sunday: "The nature of this work is such that its details cannot always be disclosed to the public."
By withholding what transpired in both cases, Israel is not demonstrating fear or weakness but rather self-confidence, the type that demonstrates to its neighbors that the IDF has long-reaching capabilities and that, as Olmert said Sunday, "Whoever sponsors terrorists will be harmed; we will reach them anywhere."
The last known time Israel kidnapped a high-level terrorist connected to an MIA was in 1994, when Mustafa Dirani, a former senior official in the Lebanese Amal group believed to have held missing IAF navigator Ron Arad, was abducted by IDF commandos from his home in Lebanon.
The chief of General Staff at the time of Dirani's abduction was Ehud Barak, who last week - now as defense minister - would have needed to give the green light for both alleged and daring operations in Gaza and Syria.
A former commander of the IDF's General Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), Barak is quite familiar with a wide range of covert and creative operations carried out behind enemy lines.
Since taking over as defense minister two and a half months ago, Barak's influence has been felt on many of the recent developments in the IDF.
Unlike his predecessor Amir Peretz, who was a staunch proponent of restraint vis-Ã -vis the Kassam rocket fire in Gaza, Barak has ordered the IDF to adopt a tougher stance in responding to the Palestinian attacks and to take greater risks when operating inside Gaza.
If Peretz would have held back from allowing an air strike that could end in civilian casualties, Barak, defense sources say, is more inclined to say yes.
According to the officials, Barak has also ordered the IDF to use riskier intelligence-gathering methods when operating against Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.