by Khalid Amayreh
Ahmed Khalil Al-Jabari was considered the de-facto chief of staff of Hamas’s resistance wing, the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades. The Israeli occupation army and the Shin Bet security agency were always seeking the opportune time to murder him. Israel views any Palestinian opposed to the Israeli military occupation of Palestine, either passively or actively, as a terrorist who ought to be liquidated.
In 2004, Al-Jabari was the target of an assassination attempt by the Israeli army for his role in the resistance. His eldest son, Mohamed, his brother and three of his cousins were brutally murdered in an Israeli strike on his home in the assassination attempt.
In numerous cases, Israel didn’t hesitate to liquidate the entire immediate families of Palestinian resistance activists although these families were in most if not all cases innocent of any wrongdoing.
An example of this murderous modus operandi was the killing of Hamas activist Nezar Rayan and his entire family during the 2008-09 Israeli blitz on the Gaza Strip that killed more than 1,400 people and injured several thousands, mostly innocent civilians.
Al-Jabari, who originally hailed from Hebron, played a key role in Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Those who worked with him spoke of his “unique organisational skills, meticulous security precautions and self-abnegation”. Moreover, as commander of Hamas’s military wing, Al-Jabari was able to develop its weapon capability, both qualitatively and qualitatively.
In addition to his prominent role in the resistance against the Israeli occupation, Al-Jabari played a significant role in Hamas’s high political echelons. He was widely considered as a representative of a new generation of Islamist leaders following the murder by Israel of such iconic political and resistance leaders such as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, Ibrahim Makadma and Yehia Ayash.
Abu Mohamed (his nom de guerre) began his political and resistance activism with Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) mainstream group commanded by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In 1982, he was arrested by the Israeli occupation authorities and imprisoned for 13 years.
Upon his release, Al-Jabari joined Hamas, because he found Fatah either too secular or too compromising (he was released after the signing of the Oslo Accords). In 2009, he was quoted as saying that “Palestine can only be liberated by true Muslims.”
“Palestine is first and foremost an Islamic issue. Only through universal jihad against this criminal state of Israel will Muslims wrest Palestine from the clutches of Jewish invaders.”He also referred to Israel as “a transitory and tentative phenomenon that will disappear sooner or later. We must therefore view Israel like the (great Kurdish Muslim general) Salaheddin Al-Ayoubi (Saladin) viewed the Crusades.”
In 1998, Al-Jabari was arrested and reportedly maltreated by Arafat’s Preventive Security Services apparatus on suspicion he attacked an Israeli bus carrying Jewish settlers. He was released a year later. It was likely due to that mistreatment that he played a decisive role in enabling Hamas to take over the Gaza Strip and oust PLO militias from the coastal enclave.
In 2002, he replaced Mohamed Dheif as de facto leader of the Ezzeddin Al-Qassam Brigades. Dheif had been seriously injured in an assassination attempt by the Israeli army. According to Hamas officials, thanks to Al-Jabari’s leadership, the resistance wing of Hamas became more professional, more disciplined and more powerful.
THE SHALIT AFFAIR: Al-Jabari will be especially remembered for his key role in overseeing the capture and negotiations for release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, imprisoned by Palestinian resistance fighters in 2006 in an ambush on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the incident.
Israel subsequently made tremendous intelligence efforts to locate and rescue Shalit but to no avail. Al-Jabari is credited for aborting these Israeli efforts as he allowed very few people to come into contact with Shalit. It was widely believed that Israel carried out its full-scale onslaught against Gaza in 2008 at least in part in order to rescue the captured soldier.
Al-Jabari saw to it that Shalit was well treated, despite repeated Israeli attempts to murder him and his family. In the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza, Al-Jabari’s home was destroyed by an Israeli missile.
In 2011, when a prisoner swap deal with Israel was struck, Al-Jabari personally escorted Shalit to the Rafah crossing with Egypt, making a rare public appearance.He was reportedly cautious with his personal safety and wouldn’t take any chances. Moreover, he wouldn’t make many public appearances or even carry a cell phone.
Nonetheless, Shin Bet was eventually able to identify one of the cars he was using thanks to a local informer who was later identified and killed.
On 14 November, Al-Jabari was killed while driving along Omar Al-Mokhtar Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Gaza City. He on many occasions said that his dearest wish was to die as a martyr and be accepted by the Almighty. According to the Quran, those who are killed while fighting oppression and injustice don’t die but remain alive in heaven.
“Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision. They rejoice in what Allah has bestowed upon them of His Bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not yet joined them, but are left behind (not yet martyred) that on them no fear shall come, nor shall they grieve.” (S.3-v 169-170)
Ahmed Al-Jabari was buried 15 November with thousands of people attending his funeral. He was laid to rest at the Sheikh Radwan cemetery where numerous Palestinian martyrs are buried.