By Tamir Hayman
Within a span of 48 hours, Israel wiped out Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s entire senior military command in Gaza.
On Aug. 6, the Israel Defense Forces killed Khaled Mansour, the PIJ’s southern division commander, in a pinpoint strike, following the opening salvo of “Operation Breaking Dawn” a day earlier that eliminated Tayseer Jabari, the group’s northern division commander. Other field commanders and terrorist cells were also eliminated.
As head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, I became familiar with these two bloodthirsty terrorists, who planned murderous attacks against Israelis. The world is truly a better place now that they are gone. In many ways, Mansour’s removal is even more significant than Jabari’s, as he was one of the organization’s most important and senior commanders. Over the course of his terrorist career, he helped spearhead PIJ’s rocket capabilities, was responsible for its operations and was the dominant figure behind the attack that was planned along the Gaza border in recent days.
The ability to amplify pressure and to take the enemy by surprise every day, even when he knows you’re coming, is the key to building deterrence. Beyond the impressive tactical accomplishment, it is worth examining the broader aspects of the operation. First, however, we must keep things in tight perspective — this was a limited operation against a relatively weak organization, likely the weakest among our enemies. The operation was not intended to fundamentally change the reality in Gaza, which will continue to pose a challenge in the future.
The recent series of events began when PIJ responded to the arrest of a senior member in Jenin by preparing to fire anti-tank missiles at Israelis in Gaza-area communities. The initial and necessary Israeli response of imposing limits on civilian transportation in the area encouraged PIJ to up its demands to the point of establishing a new equation, whereby the IDF’s activities in Judea and Samaria would lead to a response from Gaza.
This sin of arrogance is what led to the offensive against PIJ, because such an equation is intolerable from Israel’s point of view. It appears that Israel’s objectives in “Operation Breaking Dawn” were to foil the planned attack, prevent the establishment of an equation linking Judea and Samaria to Gaza and enhance deterrence against PIJ. Aside from the first goal — which was clearly achieved by ravaging PIJ’s chain of command, anti-tank units and other military targets — the success of the other two will be judged in the future. In light of the severe blow suffered by PIJ, it’s safe to assume they were achieved.
The coming days will test the preservation of Israel’s accomplishments. We must bear in mind as well that nothing is over until it’s over. One mistake, either on defense or offense, is enough to tip the balance. This was ample reason from the perspective of Israel’s decision-makers to conclude the operation as quickly as possible.
Either way, the Israeli public must now manage its expectations: The Gaza problem isn’t going anywhere and will continue being a thorn in our side for years to come. Nothing that happened here over the past few days brings us any closer to a strategic resolution on this front.
IDF Maj. Gen. (res.) Tamir Hayman is the managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies. This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.