The Missing Ingredient in Hamas’ and Islamic Jihad’s War Against Israel

The two fronts on which the IDF is now focusing its attention, the north and the Gaza Strip, affect each other to some extent. A week before the extensive Israeli attack in Syria, Arab media reported another action that was attributed to Israel: the attempted assassination of the No. 2 man in Islamic Jihad, Akram Ajouri.

According to the reports, apparently Ajouri evaded death only seconds after his colleague Abu al-Ata was killed by a rocket in Gaza. However, it is not clear how or even whether he was wounded in the attack (in which his son was killed) and whether any injury has rendered him inactive.

Ajouri is considered a key person in Islamic Jihad, head of the military wing and the person who was in touch with both Iran and the “internal” activists, the Palestinians in the territories. His status posed a challenge to the new leader of the organization, Ziad al-Nahla, a veteran political activist who was promoted to lead the organization last year in the wake of the severe illness of the previous secretary general, Ramadan Shalah.

The recent round with Israel exposed Islamic Jihad in its weakness. It was revealed to be a less skilled terror organization than Hamas, not particularly professional or compartmentalized, one that found it difficult to operate its command and control system and exposed its people to Israeli strikes while setting up its rocket systems. Probably the removal from action of Abu al-Ata and Ajouri right before the shooting began was a severe blow to their organization’s ability to give orders and assign sectors to the launch cells.

The unusual decision by Hamas not to take part in the exchanges (apart from the firing of two rockets at Be’er Sheva the day after the cease-fire) further reduced Palestinian firepower. The pair of rockets fired at Be’er Sheva were Hamas’ lip service to the resistance, which Israel accepted with a kind of understanding. The counterattack by the air force before dawn on Saturday was only symbolic and did not cause any casualties.

Both in Hamas and Islamic Jihad they now understand that Gaza’s place is relatively marginal on the Arab world’s agenda, in light of the string of bloody crises in other countries. It will take more than one assassination and multiple Israeli bombardments to attract attention again.

During the course of the two days of fighting, Islamic Jihad remained nearly helpless in the face of the IDF’s air and intelligence superiority. The organization chose to head into a cease-fire quickly with the aim of limiting damage and to content itself with bringing Tel Aviv and its environs to a standstill for a number of hours last Tuesday by firing a few rockets.