IAF ‘wiped out PRC’s most important’ leader

Abu Awad’s friends predict his death will “complicate” efforts to secure the release of Gilad Schalit, who he played a major role in abducting.

By
August 22, 2011 03:26
4 minute read.
PRC CHIEF Kamal al-Nayrab

Abu Awad PRC 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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About two hours before he was killed in an IDF air strike, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, Kamal al-Nayrab, packed his bags and told his wife, “Today a lot of blood will be spilled... I’m going to be away for some time.”

Nayrab took clothes and documents from his home before bidding farewell to his wife and children.

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He and senior figures in the Popular Resistance Committees had arranged to meet last Thursday at the home of Khaled Sha’ath, who is in charge of manufacturing rockets and bombs for the group, to discuss the repercussions of the terrorist attacks.

Nayrab, 43, who is better known by his pseudonym Abu Awad, knew that it was only a matter of time before Israel retaliated for the day’s attacks near Eilat and the Egyptian border that claimed the lives of eight Israelis.

Although the group had denied responsibility for the attacks, Abu Awad, who had long been wanted by Israel, knew that he and his friends were potential targets. That’s why they decided to go into hiding.

What they did not know was that the IDF had already discovered the place where they were staying.

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About six hours after the terrorist attacks, Abu Awad and four of his friends were killed by two rockets that hit the house where they were hiding in Rafah.

The four were identified as Khaled Sha’ath, the owner of the targeted house, Emad Hammad, commander of the group’s armed wing, Emad Nasr, a member of the group’s military council and Khaled al- Masri, a senior figure with the group.

The homeowner’s two-year-old son, Malek, was also killed.

The death of Abu Awad, who played a major role in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit five years ago, has been described by his friends and family as a “severe and painful blow” to the Popular Resistance Committees.

“His death is a huge loss for the resistance groups in the Gaza Strip,” said Ziad Sha’ath, a longtime friend of Abu Awad.

“It has really hurt us.”

A Palestinian journalist described Abu Awad as one of the most senior militiamen in the southern Gaza Strip. “He was considered a big military commander,” the journalist said. “The Popular Resistance Committees will never be the same after Abu Awad.”

According to the journalist, the Israeli air strike wiped out the most important leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of armed groups that has been responsible for dozens, if not hundreds, of attacks on Israelis over the past decade.

Abu Awad co-founded the Popular Resistance Committees with Jamal Abu Samhadanah (nicknamed Abu Ataya) after the start of the second intifada in September 2000.

The group is one of the most significant and powerful militias in the Gaza Strip and its membership is estimated at several hundred.

Abu Awad and Jamal Abu managed to increase the range of rocket-propelled grenades and were responsible for manufacturing bombs that penetrated an IDF Merkava tank a year later in the Gaza Strip.

Under their leadership, the group also launched scores of attacks on Jewish settlements in Gush Katif and on IDF soldiers during the second intifada.

In June 2006, while the two men were planning an operation to infiltrate Israel to carry out a large attack, IDF missiles killed Abu Samhadanah along with at least three other PRC members at one of the organization’s camps in Rafah.

However, the death of Abu Samhadanah did not stop the group from carrying out the operation two weeks later, resulting in the abduction of Schalit.

Schalit’s kidnapping was seen as an act of retaliation for the targeted killing of Abu Samhadanah.

Abu Awad’s friends predicted that his death would “complicate” efforts to secure the release of Schalit. They said that he was one of the few people in the Gaza Strip who knew where the soldier was being held.

Abu Awad joined Fatah during the first intifada, which began in 1987. A few years later he fled to Egypt, where he was detained by Egyptian security forces being allowed to travel to Libya.

After the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, he and a number of his colleagues returned to the Gaza Strip, where he worked as an intelligence officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.

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