Operation Breaking Dawn


Operational overview: On Friday afternoon the IDF launched a series of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip specifically targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operatives.

  • One of the initial prominent targets was Tayseer Jabari, Northern Gaza Division Commanding Officer of the PIJ.
  • Other targets in the initial raid included a PIJ field commander in Khan Yunis as well as PIJ sniper nests and anti-tank missile cells located on border areas.
  • On Saturday night, Khaled Mansour, the PIJ commander of the southern Gaza Strip, was killed in an airstrike.
  • Another strike killed Rafat al-Zamli, the commander of the PIJ’s rocket unit.
  • As of 0700 Sunday morning, the IDF struck 139 PIJ targets including, terror attack tunnels, military posts, weapons storage facilities and rocket launch sites.
  • Overall around 20-25 PIJ operatives have been killed.
  • In addition there have been other Palestinian casualties, but several of these have been killed by faulty PIJ rockets landing inside the Gaza Strip.
  • According to Palestinian officials at 0800 on Sunday, there have been a total of 29 deaths 253 wounded in attacks.
  • In parallel to events in the Gaza Strip, the IDF also carried out a wave of 20 arrests in the West Bank late last night, 19 of which were Islamic Jihad operatives.

Rocket attacks on Israel: As of 0700 Sunday morning, 585 rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip.

  • Of those, 470 crossed into Israeli territory. The majority have been short range aimed at Israeli  communities in the Gaza Strip periphery.
  • Of those 185 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, based on the trajectory that those rockets would have landed in populated areas.  This represents around 97 per cent success rate.
  • One rocket resulted in a direct hit on a home in the Eshkol Regional Council. No one was injured in that incident. The members of the family who live in the house had taken cover in a bomb shelter. The house sustained some structural damage.
  • A second rocket exploded in the garden of a private residence in Sderot.
  • Around 115 rockets misfired and landed inside the Gaza Strip itself.
  • It was one of these misfires that tragically led to the death of five children

Background: The operation was launched following four days of tension in the south, which itself was precipitated by the IDF arresting Bassem Saadi, the leader of PIJ in the West Bank earlier in the week.

  • Israel had closed roads and the train service between Ashkelon and Sderot was suspended, based on intelligence assessments that PIJ was planning a sniper or anti-tank missile attack.
  • After 7 deadly terror attacks resulting in 19 Israeli fatalities between March and April, Israel launched a series of arrests throughout the West Bank.
  • Former IDF head of intelligence Amos Yadlin explained in Israeli media that unlike the threat of rocket fire, for which Israel has the Iron Dome for protection, and the population drilled, the threat from anti-tank fire could accurately target a bus, train or car and cause numerous fatalities with no warning.
  • As Israel launched the operation PIJ Secretary General Ziyad al-Nakhalah was in Iran. He met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Friday and yesterday held a working meeting with the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
  • According to Yediot Ahronot’s security analyst Yossi Yehoshua, “With Iran’s guidance, PIJ has taken to the barricades, just as has Hezbollah, but without too many pronouncements, and it is preparing for an act of revenge. This past year, the IDF killed more than 20 of its operatives in Jenin, in a series of operations, and at no stage was a threat made linking Gaza to the West Bank, which only corroborates the assumption that a directive was issued from Tehran to retaliate in the south while Hezbollah increases the tension in the north in tandem with no real reason except to appease its patron.”

Who is PIJ: Established in the Gaza Strip in the 1980s their aim is the annihilation of the State of Israel by force and the imposition of Islamic law.

  • As their aims conform to Iran’s goals, they receive most of their funding from Tehran, currently estimated to be around £58m a year (down on previous support due to sanctions on Iran).
  • When Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, PIJ enjoyed almost complete freedom of action, and managed to grow in size to some 20,000 operatives.
  • In addition they have cells and infrastructure in the West Bank, particularly in the Jenin area, where Bassam al-Saadi was arrested last week
  • Iran supplies the organisation with financial support, it also supplies weapons and training.
  • Following the US killing of  IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, then leader of PIJ Ramadan Shalah visited Iran to pledge allegiance.
  • Jabari, who was killed on Friday was the successor of Baha Abu al-Ata, who was killed in an IDF airstrike in November 2019.
  • Khaled Mansour, who was killed on Saturday was considered Israel’s second most wanted person in the Gaza Strip, after Hamas military commander Muhammad Deif.

Hamas’ position: The most salient aspect of the current round of fighting so far has been the separation between Hamas and PIJ.

  • The PIJ is a much smaller organisation, with a reduced capacity to fire long range rockets.
  • The current logic of Hamas staying out of the fighting is threefold:
    • Following the last conflict in May 2021, Hamas is not ready for another clash. It still hasn’t replenished its rocket capacity or sufficiently reconstructed its underground tunnel “metro” network.
    • Since last May, Israel has used both carrot and stick to convince Hamas of maintaining quiet. One of the carrots has been increasing to 14,000 Gazan workers into Israel every day. Due to disparity in pay, these workers are crucial to the Gazan economy.
    • Regarding the stick, Hamas has seen the significant targeting of PIJ and understands the face a similar fate if they are to engage militarily.
  • Nevertheless, the longer this operation goes on, the more pressure Hamas may feel to join in.

Looking ahead: Egypt is leading the mediation efforts to bring an end to hostilities. Egyptian President Sisi confirmed: “We are working with our partners to restore peace and stability in Gaza”

  • On Sunday morning Israel accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire.
  • The objective is to get Hamas to pressure PIJ into accepting a ceasefire agreement.