Assassinated Islamic leader was one of Israel’s most implacable foes

The senior leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip was one of Israel’s most implacable enemies from his youth.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Baha Abu Al Ata was assassinated in a pinpoint Israeli missile strike on his bedroom while at home in Gaza City in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A brief biography of the arch-terrorist who has long been on Israel’s Most Wanted List explains why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF called him “a ticking bomb.”

Al Ata joined the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) at a young age, moving steadily up in the ranks of the Iran-backed terror organization until he became commander of its armed force, the Al-Quds Brigades.

As the group’s leader, he successfully built up its military might over the last five years, according to Hebrew media reports. Most recently, Al Ata was responsible for the construction of advanced, long-range missiles that can hit central Israel, and drones that dropped bombs and were also capable of kamikaze strikes.

According to a Wednesday report in Israel Hayom, the PIJ may now even equal Hamas in terms of its air threat to Israel, even though PIJ has far fewer men than its largerr rival that rules the coastal enclave.

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Especially in the last year, the radical mastermind “was the main instigator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip,” said Netanyahu when explaining Tuesday why Al Ata was targeted.

“He initiated, planned and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen. He was in the midst of planning additional attacks in the immediate short term. He was a ticking time bomb,” Netanyahu said.

His motivation was to “act in every way to sabotage attempts for calm with Hamas,” according to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, who joined Netanyahu at a Tuesday press conference. Since PIJ is bankrolled completely by Iran, the consensus is that Tehran wants to keep tensions high in the region.

Al Ata was heavily involved in the political side of the organization, certainly giving the lie to a concept popular in Europe that “armed” and “political” wings of a terrorist group are separate entities.

Al Ata was the contact man in the Strip for the group’s collective leadership, which resides in Syria. He also was the ‘go-to’ man when it came to negotiating with Hamas. When Egypt decided to include PIJ in its mediation efforts with Israel, Al Ata was a member of the delegation that went to Cairo.

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Al Ata was assassinated just shy of his 42nd birthday. Given his relative youth, Israel has eliminated a man who would have tormented its citizenry for years, if not decades.