A little-known Hamas operative in Lebanon was seriously wounded in a failed assassination attempt earlier today. Lebanese and Palestinians authorities speculated that the “hit” was the work of Israeli intelligence. An Israeli security source confirmed this report to me.
He added that Mohamed Hamdan was targeted because he was leading a new Hamas-Hezbollah weapons initiative which allegedly shipped Iranian rocket parts by sea from Lebanon to Gaza. If this part of the report is correct, it would be significant because while Hezbollah and Hamas are both known enemies of Israel, there are few known instances in which they’ve cooperated in any way in their mutual fight against it.
To offer but one example, though Israeli military figures worried that during offensives against Gaza that Hezbollah would mount operations in the north to both aid Hamas and exploit Israeli distraction on the southern front, this never happened. Nor when Israel invaded Lebanon did Hamas mount attacks in the south. Hitherto, these two Islamist groups have not joined in their mutual fight. This could mark a radical and dangerous departure, from Israel’s perspective.
Such a joint weapons operation also involving importing Iranian rockets into Gaza would mark an important effort by Iran to create an effective two-front battle against Israel. This is a development which Israel would want to sabotage at the first opportunity. Though given Iran and Hezbollah’s success in their Syrian campaign, it would be hard to see how Israel could entirely succeed if their adversaries were committed to this effort and thought it would benefit their military interests in the long-term.
Another purpose to such an Israeli “hit” would be to remind Hezbollah that while there may be a truce in effect on the Lebanese border, Israel can still strike in the heart of Lebanon at will against its enemies. While both Hezbollah and Lebanese security services have succeeded in breaking up a number of high-profile spy rings working on Israel’s behalf, this has not exhausted Israel’s capabilities, or so the intended message might go.
It’s not clear why the assassination failed, though the Reuters report said the bomb exploded as Hamdan was about to get in the car. This would indicate that the timing of the explosion was wrong, unlike when a similar car bomb succeeded in killing Imad Mugniyeh in Damascus several years ago. Reports by Ronen Bergman claimed that U.S. intelligence also collaborated with the Mossad in that operation.
The security source also specifically wished to debunk a statement by Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz. The latter actually has no intelligence experience, nor do the nation’s intelligence agencies actually report to him. In fact, the intelligence services consider him little more than a joke.
Katz denied that Israel was behind the assassination attempt, saying that had it actually been responsible, Israel wouldn’t have failed to kill him. My source derided this statement saying:
The so-called intelligence minister proved again he knows nothing about Israeli intelligence’s secret operations. I recall more than one case in which our target wasn’t hurt at all, let alone being lightly wounded.”
Given that Israeli security officials are loath to admit they ever fail, I asked whether he would mention a specific operation which did fail. He replied that the Shin Bet had targeted a Hamas militant leader in 2003, a year before Yasir Arafat either died naturally or was poisoned. While earlier attempts using conventional means had failed, the agency finally succeeded by poisoning his food.
For Israeli security services to use their own failures as a way to debunk Katz indicates just how much animus there is against him.