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Hamas military chief topped Israel’s wanted list

  • Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • Palestinian security forces wheel into a hospital the body of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)Palestinian security forces wheel into a hospital the body of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
  • Palestinian men react at hospital after the body of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, was brought,  in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)Palestinian men react at hospital after the body of Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing, was brought, in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
  • Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • Israeli soldiers and civilians run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)Israeli soldiers and civilians run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
  • Israelis soldiers run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)Israelis soldiers run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
  • People gather around a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)People gather around a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
  • People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The shadowy Hamas military chief killed in an Israeli missile strike Wednesday had long topped the Jewish state's most-wanted list for masterminding a string of deadly attacks.

One was the 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier in a complex cross-border raid that killed two other soldiers.

Ahmed Jabari, a former history student who spent 13 years in Israeli prisons, also commanded Hamas fighters during a 2007 takeover of Gaza in which they drove out forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

During nine years as leader of the Hamas Izzedine al Qassam Brigades, Jabari largely stayed out of the public eye. His highest profile appearance came in October 2011, when he escorted the captured Israeli soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, out of Gaza in a swap for about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

In a public appearance late Wednesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called Jabari "the military chief of staff of Hamas."

Jabari was born in 1960 in Gaza City. He began as a member of Abbas' Fatah movement, but switched his allegiance to Hamas during his time in Israeli prisons.

After Israel released him in 1995, he worked for a Hamas-run support group for prisoners. In 1998, he was jailed by Palestinian security forces in Gaza for his involvement with the Hamas military wing. Jabari was released two years later, after Israel shelled Gaza prisons as part of its crackdown on a Palestinian uprising.

In 2003, Jabari became the de facto commander of the Hamas military wing after then-chief Mohammed Deif was seriously wounded in an Israeli attack. Jabari survived four attempts by Israel to kill him. In 2004, an air strike on Jabari's house killed his son, Mohammed, a brother and three other relatives.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but still controls its airspace, seacoast and all but one of its land crossings.

Hamas has ruled Gaza with an iron hand since the 2007 takeover, deepening the political split with Abbas. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

The takeover deepened the isolation of Hamas and prompted the group to rely increasingly on Iran and Syria. Jabari was instrumental in developing the Hamas military arsenal and the group's networks in Iran, Sudan and Lebanon.

The Hamas founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, though the group has been grappling with its political direction in recent years.

Founded in Gaza in 1987, Hamas carried out scores of suicide bombings in Israel, killing hundreds of Israelis, but halted most such attacks several years ago. Gaza militants, including those from Hamas, have fired thousands of mortars and rockets at Israel in the past decade, drawing Israeli retaliation.

Jabari was considered close to Hamas hard-liner Mahmoud Zahar, a Gaza strongman. In 2011, Jabari wrote in a Hamas publication that "as long as the Jews occupy our land, they have one thing (in store), death, or they leave the occupied Palestinian territories."

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