In the late morning hours of Dec. 13, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense policy blew up in his face. Its guiding principle was simple: Pacify, satisfy and bribe Hamas in Gaza to maintain calm on the southern front; count on continued calm in the West Bank; focus on the northern front and Hezbollah's secret tunnels and continue battling Iran’s deepening presence in Syria and strengthening of Hezbollah. Until now, it had all worked quite well.
Thursday started out splendidly. Overnight, Israeli forces recorded a series of dizzying victories. A special forces police unit, the Shin Bet security agency and the Israel Defense Forces had located the members of the terror cell who had carried out a deadly attack in the settlement of Ofra on Dec. 9. The troops killed one of the men (Saleh Barghouti) and went in pursuit of the others. At the same time, eagerly awaited information was received about the whereabouts of Ashraf Na’alowa, the Palestinian assailant who carried out the deadly Oct. 7 attack in the Barkan Industrial Zone. He was sighted in the pre-dawn hours and opened fire at the Israelis, who shot back and killed him. This individual assailant had managed to lead astray the Israeli defense-intelligence machine for two months, mostly because he had acted alone, without any support structure or organized hierarchy. His elimination restored the Shin Bet’s aura as an invincible machine and Netanyahu could check off yet another achievement.