JENIN, West Bank, (Reuters) – Israeli undercover forces killed an Islamic Jihad commander on Wednesday, a day after a Palestinian suicide bomber he had sent to Israel was apprehended near Tel Aviv.
Witnesses said Israeli forces in civilian clothing sprayed Mahmoud Abu al-Jahim’s car with bullets in the city of Jenin, a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank.
Islamic Jihad identified Jahim as its top commander in the northern West Bank and vowed to avenge what it called an Israeli assassination. An Israeli colonel who led the operation said his men had intended to arrest Jahim. “He was carrying an M-16 (assault rifle) and fired in the air when he felt something suspicious going on. He then pointed his weapon at the forces and was shot dead,” Colonel Hertzi Halevy told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Jahim was killed a day after Israeli police arrested a suspected Palestinian bomber and several accomplices hiding in an apartment near Tel Aviv. A police spokesman said they had planned to stage an attack in the city hours later. “The targeted man was a senior Islamic Jihad man who recruited and sent the man apprehended with the explosive device near Tel Aviv on Tuesday night,” an Israeli security source said after the Jenin shooting.
Abu Ahmed, spokesman of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, said Jahim “was directly responsible for sending a fighter from the group on the suicide mission”. “The assassination of our leaders will not stop us from continuing the path of Jihad and resistance and the response will be violent inside the depth of the Zionist entity,” Abu Ahmed said.
Halevy said said Jahim had been on Israel’s most-wanted list for the past two years. “As a result of new information received, including from the man captured near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, we had details on his whereabouts,” he said. “His vehicle was found to be loaded with explosive devices. It was left for Palestinian security forces to deal with.”
Islamic Jihad last carried out a suicide attack in Israel on Jan. 29, when three people were killed in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
The group has rejected a Gaza ceasefire with Israel which the governing Islamist movement Hamas and other militant factions declared in November.
Islamic Jihad said at the time it wanted the truce to extend to the West Bank, where Israel has mounted frequent raids to detain or kill militants since the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000.