Sunday 4 January 2009

Nizar Rayyan: Hamas "Human Shield" strategist succumbs to his own stratagem, by Ely Karmon

"According to the Jerusalem Post of January 1, 2009, Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, 52, a senior Hamas leader and cleric, was killed along with several others on Thursday when an IAF aircraft dropped a bomb on the eight-story Jabalya apartment building he lived. Rayyan was not only the religious leader of Hamas's military wing, Izzadin Kassam, but also one of their military commanders. A lecturer at Gaza's Islamist University, Rayyan, had mentored suicide bombers and would sometimes go on patrol with Hamas fighters. He was an outspoken advocate of renewing suicide bombings against Israel.

Rayyan's house was serving as an arms and ammunition warehouse and as a Hamas communications center, a statement released by the government press office said. In addition, a tunnel was located under the house and was used for the escape of terror operatives.

He was both the director and the financier of the March 14, 2004 sophisticated terrorist attack at the strategic Ashdod port perpetrated by two terrorists hiding in a container with double walls specifically built for this operation. Israeli police evaluated at the time that this suicide attack using a highly sophisticated plastic explosive may have targeted tanks of dangerous chemicals, including bromine, causing far greater casualties. Ten Israelis were killed in the attack.

As a consequence of this strategic attack, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin the leader of Hamas, responsible for dozens of suicide attacks inside Israel during the second intifadah, was killed in a targeted helicopter gunship operation on March 22, 2004.

In the air attack on Nizar Rayyan, nine other people were killed, including Rayyan's four wives and four of his 12 children, and around 30 were wounded in the air strike. According to Palestinian sources, his family was warned before the attack but did not leave the building.

According to the Hamas website in English it was Rayyan, 'who took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields'.

According to the Israeli Haaretz of January 2, 2009, in some cases residents of suspected houses have been able to prevent bombing by climbing up to the roof to show that they will not leave, prompting IDF commanders to call off the strike. The IDF has code named such operations 'roof knocking,' in which the army informs the residents of suspected building that they have 10 minutes to leave the premises. In these cases, the IAF sometimes launches a relatively harmless missile at the corner of the roof, avoiding casualties but successfully dispersing the crowd.

It seems therefore that for this time, the deliberated strategy of using human shields has not worked because the IDF opted to bomb the house anyway. The fact that his family was warned before the attack but did not leave the building, shows that Rayyan did not bother for more civilian victims even when they belonged to his family. He had already a history of family 'sacrifice': in October 2001, he sent his son to perpetrate a suicide attack in the Gush Katif settlement Elei Sinai, in which two young Israelis were killed.

Hamas spokesperson Mushir al-Masri responded to the attack saying, 'This is a new escalation in violence. We are taking every precaution to guard the Hamas leaders in order to ensure the enemy doesn't score further victories' and a Hamas statement threatened revenge on IDF soldiers."

Article by Dr. Ely Karmon, Senior Research Scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya and Senior Research Fellow at The Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC.

O Diplomata

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