by Ari Lieberman
Mohammad Zawari, father of Hamas’ UAV program, meets justice.
Aside from a bullet, it’s difficult to know what went through Mohammad Zawari’s mind when Israeli agents finally caught up with him. Perhaps he was astonished by the fact that Mossad agents were able to track and pinpoint his location within the relative safe confines of Tunisia. Or perhaps he felt regret for having rubbed the Israelis the wrong way. Either way, justice finally caught up with the man who was attempting to enhance Hamas’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program and had also performed “work” for the Iranian proxy terror group, Hezbollah.
Zawari, who had been nicknamed the “engineer,” had been a prominent member of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood. His prominence caught the unwanted attention of Tunisian authorities prompting his flight to Syria in 1991. He returned to Tunisia following the overthrow of former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.
Zawari was deeply involved in Hamas’ UAV program and was responsible for many technical innovations in drone technology, bolstering the group’s offensive capabilities. He reportedly entered Gaza on numerous occasions through a network of tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza-Sinai border. Hamas confirmed that Zawari was a member of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and described him as a commander “who supervised our UAV program.”
As is common practice, Israel did not acknowledge responsibility for the terrorist’s liquidation but given Zawari’s nefarious activities, it certainly had good reason to target him. Hamas has increasingly been using kites with GoPros and low tech UAVs to surveil Israel’s border communities. Israel believes that in the next war with Hamas, the terror group will attempt to infiltrate Israeli border communities through tunnels in an attempt to execute a mega attack aimed at killing or capturing as many Israelis as possible. The drones, which gather intelligence on border communities, are integral to Hamas’ diabolical plans.
Israel’s vaunted intelligence services have, over the years, done a remarkable job keeping Israel’s citizens safe from those who have dedicated their lives to killing Jews.
In 2008, Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah’s chief military operations officer and the brainchild of its “special operations,” was liquidated in a joint Mossad/CIA operation. Mughniyah had made a career out of killing innocent civilians. After evading several assassination attempts, justice caught up with him in Damascus when explosives in the headrest of his SUV separated his head from his body.
In 2008, General Muhammad Suleiman, Bashar Assad’s chief weapons procurement adviser was liquidated at his plush seaside villa in Tartus. Suleiman was also responsible for Syria’s militarized nuclear program (Syria’s nuclear facility had been destroyed by the Israeli Air Force in 2007) and the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah. He was killed by Israeli snipers belonging to the Shayetet-13 unit, the Israeli equivalent to the U.S. Navy SEALS.
In 2010, Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, Hamas’ chief liaison officer with Hezbollah and Iran was liquidated in a Dubai hotel room. In 1989, Mabhouh murdered an Israeli in cold blood elevating him within the ranks of Hamas. Mabhouh was responsible for procuring arms, including rockets, from Iran but the Mossad finally put an end to his bloody career. As is often the case, the liquidation of such a senior Hamas operative caused panic and sowed fear and suspicion within the ranks of the organization’s top echelon.
In 2011, Major General Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam, considered the architect of Iran’s ICBM program was killed in a massive explosion that targeted a secretive Iranian military base outside Bidganeh. At least 17 Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives were killed along with Moghaddam.
In 2013, Hassan al-Laqis, a high level Hezbollah operative responsible for Hezbollah’s UAV program as well as other military procurement operations was liquidated by unknown assailants in front of his home in Hadath just south of Beirut. Israel denied involvement but Laqis was a dangerous terrorist whose activities posed a threat to Israel. The operation was professionally executed with no collateral damage and bore the hallmarks of a Mossad job.
In 2015, Jihad Mughniyah, the son of Imad Mughniyah and a senior Hezbollah commander was killed in an Israeli strike near the Israeli Golan Heights as he and at least 11 other senior Iranian and Hezbollah cohorts were reconnoitering along the border. Killed along with Mughniyah was Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a ranking IRGC officer believed to be a ballistic missile expert and indispensable to Iranian operations in Syria and Lebanon. The group was suspected of trying to establish a missile base near the Golan Heights but the Israeli strike put the kibosh on those plans.
In 2015, Samir Kuntar a senior Hezbollah terrorist and notorious child killer who murdered a four-year-old girl by smashing her skull with the butt of his rifle was liquidated after a missile (or smart bomb) believed to have been launched by Israeli jets struck the building he was in on the outskirts of Damascus. Several Hezbollah and IRGC operatives were killed along with Kuntar. The terrorist was reportedly in the midst of planning attacks on Israel when killed.
Often Israeli operatives are tasked with catching terrorists alive to extract additional intelligence. This was the case with Dirar Abu Sisi who worked closely with Hamas and was responsible for extending the range of various rockets in the terror group’s arsenal. Abu Sisi was snatched from Ukraine in 2011 and brought to Israel where he cooperated with Israeli authorities, providing vital information regarding Hamas’ military capabilities.
The list represents a small sampling of the tireless and relentless efforts by Israel’s security establishment to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish State. Zawari’s liquidation should serve as a reminder to those who traffic in death -- whether they come from the ranks of Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS or the IRGC -- that they cannot hide from Israel’s long arm and are fair game.
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor who has authored numerous articles and publications on matters concerning the Middle East and is considered an authority on geo-political and military developments affecting the region.
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