100 quality targets, 25 terrorists and 48 crucial hours.
That is how the IDF headlined its release of new documentation of the moment naval fighters hit terrorist infrastructure on the shores of the Gaza Strip during Operation Black Belt one year ago; a successful mission the Israeli miliary says “changed the rules of the game.”
Operation Black Belt commenced on 12 November 2019 when the IDF and the Israeli Security Agency carried out a surgical strike against Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior terrorist in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). The mission was launched following the decision by senior defense officials during top-secret talks, and it has been hailed as “an intelligence and operational achievement that continues to hinder the capabilities of Islamic Jihad today.”
Baha Abu al-Ata was the PIJ’s Commander of the Northern Sector and the Gaza City Division. He trained terror cells to infiltrate into Israel, carry out sniper attacks, fire rockets and drone raids against Israeli civilians and military personnel. He was also responsible for orchestrating the majority of PIJ terror attacks—specifically from Gaza—against Israeli civilians and troops from 2019 up to the days leading to his targeted assassination. The IDF considered Abu al-Ata as a “ticking time bomb,” whose elimination would save lives and advance regional stability.
PIJ responded to his death with a relentless barrage of 450 rockets fired at Israeli population centers within a 48 hour time frame. After initially targeting private Israeli homes near the security barrier with the Islamist Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, the attacks were later expanded toward the center of Israel with some of the missiles reaching as far as Tel Aviv.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system successfully intercepted hundreds of Islamic Jihad rockets during the operation.
The IDF immediately retaliated with a series of strikes on PIJ terror targets throughout the lawless Palestinian enclave, destroying rocket launching squads, terror bases, observation posts, training compounds, underground weapons storage and manufacturing sites, a naval base and subterranean terror tunnels.
According to a released Black Belt operational timeline, with 48 hours the IDF succeeded in:
Eliminating 25 terror operatives, including Baha Abu al-Ata who was the key target
Striking approximately 100 terror targets belonging to the Islamic Jihad organization
Intercepting about 90% of the incoming PIJ rockets with air defense systems
The Israeli army stressed that it went to great lengths to reduce harm to those uninvolved, unlike Islamic Jihad terrorists who not only intentionally targeted Israeli civilians but also used the people of Gaza as human shields. “By deliberately choosing to operate in populated civilian areas and locating various military facilities in residential areas, Islamic Jihad intentionally put Gazan civilians in harm’s way,” said the IDF.
Abu al-Ata’s elimination removed a destabilizing actor from the region and emphasized the IDF’s capabilities in targeting terror, by significantly hindering the PIJ’s operational activities in Gaza. There has been a noted decline in terror activity against Israeli civilians and troops since Operation Black Belt.
IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi called upon every Israeli soldier to learn from the success of the rapid, lethal, and accurate operation.
The IDF also reiterated its committment to defend the nation and vow to take any necessary action to ensure the safety of Israeli civilians and homes.