The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), finally decided enough was enough and took out Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata during an airstrike this week. They thus terminated the threat that more than anyone or anything else had disrupted cease-fire talks along Israel’s southern border.

While Hamas, Egypt, and Israel were trying to broker a ceasefire deal, al-Ata was actively trying to undermine it. According to Israeli news sources, Shin Bet, the Israeli security service and the IDF targeted al-Ata for assassination over two years ago. But the IDF and Prime Minister Netanyahu argued that his death would spark renewed violence in the south, which is what has now happened.

For over two days, Israel has been inundated with rockets fired from Gaza, which have nearly paralyzed the country.

Many Israelis have been questioning not whether the IDF should have targeted al-Ata, but rather the timing of it. Some of Netanyahu’s critics argue that it was a ploy aimed at scuttling the plans of his chief rival, Benny Gantz, to form a coalition government without Netanyahu’s Likud Party. However, Gantz approved of the IDF operation. 

So, who was Baha Abu al-Ata? Some say he was close to the Iranians and was taking his orders from them. Not so, say IDF intelligence officials. Many of them believe that al-Ata was just acting “like an unchecked thug.” Intelligence officials believe that he only acted in a manner that would be beneficial to the Iranians in order to derail any truce talk and gain influence with Tehran as a major player on the scene. 

Islamic Jihad felt the same way. They allowed him to unleash rockets and attacks on Israel because if the cease-fire with Hamas went through, the IJ, would gain nothing of consequence from it. But even they grew frustrated with his running off the rails. 

Islamic Jihad was negotiating along with Hamas and Israel, earlier this year, in an attempt to ease conditions in the impoverished, surrounded country. It was during this time that al-Ata decided on his own to launch a fusillade of rockets at Tel Aviv.

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in a rare display of accord, disavowed the rocket attacks, blaming them on “rebels” within the organizations. The Israelis also flipped, and instead of blaming Hamas for the escalation of violence in Gaza blamed it on al-Ata.