Netanyahu: Al-Ata Was a ‘Ticking Time Bomb’; Gaza Fighting Could Take Time

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi sit together as they deliver joint statements in Tel Aviv, Tuesday. (Reuters/Corinna Kern)

In an address broadcast live to the nation, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata, killed in a morning strike, was a “ticking time bomb” and that the operation was approved unanimously by the Cabinet 10 days ago.

Netanyahu said that al-Ata was the driving force behind recent attacks against Israel and was a “ticking time bomb.”

“Whoever hurts us, we will hurt them. Whoever thinks they can avoid the reach of our long arm is mistaken,” he added. “We are not interested in escalation but will respond when necessary.”

The prime minister noted that the operation was discussed by the Cabinet for several months, and the IDF was told to carry out the operation at the time it thought best, and that the window of opportunity was early Tuesday, when the terrorist was with few innocent people around him.

Salim Abu al-Ata, the father of Bahaa, said that his son had been more cautious in recent days and was taking additional precautionary measures.

He said that Bahaa had disappeared for a week this month at a time when his name was circulating in Israeli media blaming him for a barrage of rockets fired into Israel on Nov. 2.

The father said he saw his son “the first time in a week last night, when he came to sleep at home.”

He said that he felt “it’s a crime to bomb him when he is asleep at his home.”

Bahaa was a father of five. Born in 1977, he joined the Islamic Jihad at the age of 16, didn’t go to college but “devoted himself to the resistance.”

The father also confirmed that his daughter-in-law, Asmaa, was killed alongside her husband. The family car, a black Kia with tinted windows parked outside the family home, was destroyed by debris from the airstrike.

Netanyahu noted that “Israel is not interested in escalation, but we will do everything required to protect ourselves.

“This could take time. What is needed is stamina and cool-headedness.”

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