The Israeli cabinet approved the call-up of 10,000 IDF reservists on Thursday, the 45th day of Operation Protective Edge, following the killing of three Hamas commanders, including two top officers, in a targeted assassination overnight in the Gaza Strip.
The reservists will replace others who will be sent home for rest, and join a total of 86,000 reserve soldiers called up since the beginning of the Gaza operation this summer. Most of the reservists were sent to replace active troops in the West Bank and on the northern border, though others were sent to Gaza and the Gaza front line border areas.
The Hamas commanders killed in the air strike in Rafah were named as Mohammed Abu Shamaleh and Raed al-Attar. A third Hamas leader was also killed in the attack.
The IDF has since identified Abu Shamaleh as the senior Hamas commander in the southern Gaza Strip and said that, along with Al-Attar, he orchestrated the 2006 attack during which IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was taken captive and two soldiers were killed. The IDF said he was also responsible for an infiltration in mid-July, the murder of a soldier in 1994, and several other attacks.
The IDF referred to Al-Attar as the Hamas commander in Rafah and “one of the architects of the construction of cross-border assault tunnels into Israeli territory, both in the Rafah area and throughout the Gaza Strip.”
They said he oversaw all “terror activity” in the Rafah region and was in charge of smuggling weapons into Gaza as well as the well as the killing and abduction of IDF soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin several weeks ago.
Since the strikes were confirmed there have been reports from the Gaza Strip of summary executions of people suspected of collaborating with Israel and giving up intelligence information on the location of the Hamas commanders.
Speculation continues as to whether or not the IDF killed Hamas Military Commander Mohammed Deif in an air strike Tuesday night. Palestinian reports stated that an Israeli air strike on a home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City had killed Deif’s wife and infant son, though Hamas has denied that Deif was in the house at the time.
There has been no official statement by Israeli officials regarding the Tuesday strike, and when asked in a press conference Wednesday night if Israel had killed Deif, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said only that “heads of terror organizations are legitimate targets and have no immunity”.
During the press conference Netanyahu also expressed the need for patience, saying that the operation is not over and that Israel is “determined to continue the campaign by all means for as long as it takes. We will not stop until we have assured full security and a quiet life for the residents of the south and for all Israelis.”