The attack on Tuesday marked the first such attempt to assassinate a senior figure from Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, in over two months.
Israeli security officials had recently indicated they would refrain from targeting Hamas activists after the Israeli army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said the group appeared to have halted attacks inside Israel.
Ya'lon stated Israel would target fighters of Palestinian movements such as the PFLP and the Islamic Jihad, but had excluded Hamas from his threats.
Analysts say a tacit understanding appears to have been reached between the two sides, following the failed Egyptian truce talks last month.
But an Israeli Army spokesperson told Aljazeera.net that was not the case.
“There is no such agreement. As long as there is a threat to the lives on Israeli citizens inside Israel, the IDF will operate in order to dismantle such threats,” said the spokesperson.
“If any agreement takes place, it will be between the Palestinians and the Israeli government, not between Hamas and the Israeli government,” he added.
Hamas, likewise, denied the claim, stating, “There was no agreement, only discussions.”
According to Ghazi Hamad, editor of the Hamas weekly newspaper al-Risala, American officials recently told Egyptian mediators they were ready to pressure Israel to halt its policy of assassinating Hamas leaders, in return for a Hamas ceasefire against Israelis.
“If any agreement takes place, it will be between the Palestinians and the Israeli government, not between Hamas and the Israeli government”
An Israeli army spokesperson
“Hamas refused the offer because this issue is about all of Palestinian society, and not just about Hamas,” Hamad told Aljazeera.net.
“Besides, there was no clear indication that (Israel) would agree to stop the assassinations.”
The Israeli army said they would only consider halting their assassination policy under one open-ended condition: “If there is no threat and no need to operate.”
The Israeli army confirmed that the intended target of Tuesday’s attack was a senior Hamas leader who was “involved in planning terrorist attacks and launching rockets on Israeli civilian targets”.
But Hamad said such accusations were unfounded and merely the standard Israeli justification for an otherwise extra-judicial killing. “I think this is the regular excuse that Israel always has ready,” he said.
“Its important to point out that no one from Gaza has ever been sent to conduct an operation inside the Green Line during the course of the Intifada.”
Hamas considers settlements in
Gaza legitimate targets
When pressed on the nature of the attacks carried out by al-Jarah, the army spokesperson declined to comment.
Hamas holds that settlements in the Gaza Strip are legitimate targets since they are considered illegal under international law.
They, however, claim to have stuck to an informal ceasefire of sorts in the past month, regardless of Israeli actions.
“Not a single operation was carried out by Hamas against any Israeli target last month. Yet, Israel continues its attacks on Rafah, Khan Yunis, Tul Karem, Jenin, and Nablus.”
Israeli political science professor Ira Sharkansky says Hamas’ claims to have eased its military activities are dubious.
“I do not accept Hamas' claim to have refrained from violence in the recent period. I do not know how many attempts had Hamas fingerprints on them. I give very little credence to Hamas statements,” said Sharkansky.
“Not a single operation was carried out by Hamas against any Israeli target last month. Yet, Israel continues its attacks on Rafah, Khan Yunis, Tul Karem, Jenin, and Nablus”
Editor of Hamas weekly
“And a substantial proportion of us (Jews) consider civilians in the territories and soldiers to be unfair targets of violence. So when Hamas and others speak of a ceasefire with regard to civilians inside the green line, the response is likely to be ‘nonsense’.”
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights strongly condemned the attempted assassination, claiming that the attack was further proof of an institutionalised Israeli policy aimed at escalating tensions in the region.
“PCHR stresses that extra-judicial and wilful killings further demonstrate the Israeli government's disregard for the principles of international law and humanitarian law. PCHR also reconfirms that the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli government serves to increase tension in the region and threatens the lives of Palestinian civilians.”
Targeted or political assassinations are deliberate killings, carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of a government, outside any judicial framework. Extrajudicial executions are unlawful even in an armed conflict.
In a 1998 report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted, “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any circumstances, not even in times of war”.
So far, 345 Palestinians have been killed in ''assassination operations'' conducted by the Israel occupation army, including 122 bystanders, 39 of them children.