PIJ commander Iyad al-Hassani attending an event in Gaza City in 2022. (Phot Credit Palestinian Islamic Jihad Group handout / AFP)
Israel assassinated Iyad al-Hasani, a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), in an airstrike in the Al-Nasr neighborhood in the west of the Gaza Strip on 12 May, Al-Mayadeen reported.
According to the Gaza ministry of health, another five people were wounded in the airstrike, which smashed into the top floor of an apartment building.
Hassani is the sixth PIJ commander to be assassinated by Israel since this round of fighting – dubbed the “Battle of the Revenge of the Free” – began four days ago, on 9 May, when Israel assassinated three top PIJ commanders in an airstrike, while killing 10 of their civilian family members as well.
A PIJ source told Al-Mayadeen that the assassination of the leaders of Al-Quds Brigades, the PIJ’s military wing, “will backfire sending terror across the enemy and defeating its security and army.”
On Thursday, Al-Quds Brigades spokesperson Abu Hamza stressed during a televised speech that “assassinating our senior officials and freedom fighters will only bolster our will to fight against the enemy.”
According to Israeli military sources, Iyad al-Hasani was a top official in the group’s military council, in charge of its operations department, and “was involved in all the decisions concerning the rocket fire and rocket barrages carried out by the group toward Israel.”
Speaking to reporters after the strike, Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the military had identified Hasani traveling in several vehicles over the past days. “Our ability to track using aircraft has improved in the operation, giving us the ability to track [commanders] between apartments,” he said.
Al-Mayadeen noted that Hasani’s resistance activities with PIJ date back decades and include planning the January 1995 Beit Lid double suicide operation, which targeted a gathering of Israeli soldiers at the Beit Lid crossroads, killing 19.
Yedioth Ahronoth described it at the time as “the most severe operation that targeted the Israeli army inside the Green Line.”
On the same day of Hasani’s killing, PIJ launched rockets toward occupied Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Jerusalem has not previously been targeted by rockets in the current hostilities.
PIJ issued a statement saying that “The launching towards Jerusalem is a message, and everyone should understand its purpose. Jerusalem is in front of our eyes, and what is happening there is not separate from Gaza.”
The following day, 13 May, PIJ fired another barrage of missiles at the coastal city of Ashdod and Gaza border settlements. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Residents reported hearing the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting a number of the missiles.
According to the Ministry of Health, the number of Palestinians killed as a result of the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza rose to 33 dead and 111 injured.
Since the start of the fighting on Tuesday, Israel has assassinated Al-Quds Brigades commanders Jihad Ghannam, Khalil al-Bahtini, Tarek Ezzedine, Ali Hassan Ghali, Ahmad Abu Daqqa, in addition to Hasani, who had replaced Bahtini.
According to Israeli military sources, at least 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza toward Israel since 9 May, killing one Israeli settler and wounding 15 others.