The Washington Post

Israel kills two alleged militants, including one accused of Sharon funeral missile barrage

A Palestinian boy looks at bloodstains on the wall of a house at the scene of an Israeli air strike in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip January 22, 2014. (Suhaib Salem/REUTERS)

Two alleged operatives from different militant organizations based in the Gaza Strip were killed Wednesday in a targeted missile strike carried out by the Israeli air force, according to Israeli military spokesmen.

Israeli forces killed Ahmed Zaanin, an alleged member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, alongside his cousin, Mohammed Zaanin, who was a member of Islamic Jihad, Israeli radio reported.

The Israeli military said Ahmed Zaanin was responsible for firing multiple rockets into Israel, including a barrage last week during former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s funeral, which took place at Sharon’s ranch, four miles from Gaza. The funeral was attended by Vice President Biden and other high-level dignitaries.

This is the second targeted attack on a Gaza-based militant in four days. On Sunday, Israeli forces fired a missile at Ahmad Saad, who was wounded while he rode his motorbike through the coastal enclave. The Israeli army described Saad as “a key Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative in the Gaza Strip specializing in rocket launching.”

Twice this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued warnings to Hamas, the Islamist group that governs Gaza, to control rocket attacks against Israel or face the consequences.

During a news conference with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, “We thwart terror attacks if we identify them while they are still being planned, and we respond decisively against those who harm us.”

He added, “If Hamas and the terror organizations have forgotten this message, they will learn it harshly very soon.”

Reports from Gaza indicate that Hamas is trying to clamp down on smaller militant groups by deploying its forces along the border.

Spokeswoman Isra Almodallal confirmed that Hamas has stationed troops along the border to prevent more rocket fire and said the organization was not interested in an escalation with Israel.

Small groups challenging Hamas’s authority in Gaza is nothing new, said Menachem Klein, an expert on Israeli-Palestinian relations at Bar-Ilan University. “Hamas has an interest to keep its power and crack down on the jihadist organizations. These organizations favor anarchy rather than regime, while Hamas is more interested in keeping itself in power.”

Ruth Eglash is a reporter for The Washington Post based in Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.

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