Israel’s leaders were literally looking in the opposite direction, and making sure everyone knew it, just before catching Hamas’s top commander in the Gaza Strip off-guard in an air strike that killed him.
In what now appears to have been a diversionary tactic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak paid a visit to the Syrian frontier in the north, hours before the air offensive began in the south.
The show of concern over errant mortar shells that have landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria was widely reported during the day by Israeli media.
In fact, Israeli experts now say, the visit may have been part of a ploy to deceive Hamas into believing that a truce was in place in Gaza, so that the Israeli army could catch its target, Hamas military mastermind Ahmed Al-Jaabari.
“The sense of complacency that Barak and Netanyahu created … brought Jaabari and his friends out of his holes and made possible the surprise attack,” military affairs analyst Alex Fishman wrote in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
Israel has a thick list of potential targets in the Gaza Strip, an enclave regularly criss-crossed by Israeli drones and where militants’ movements are routinely logged.
The Shin Bet security service, which oversaw the assassination of Jaabari, keeps tabs on Hamas leaders with a network