Ahmed Jabari on Gaza mural
Ahmed Jabari on Gaza muralIsrael news photo: Flash 90

For years the IDF did not make public mention of its efforts to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas from mid-2006 to late 2011.

Now a report by Walla! has revealed that in 2008, the IDF was preparing for one of its boldest operations yet: to go into Gaza and kidnap the regional head of Hamas’ terrorist activities, Ahmed al-Jabari, who would be held captive in exchange for Shalit. Had it succeeded, the mission may have become renowned as a second Entebbe - but a random last-minute change led to its failure.

According to the report, soldiers had trained and were ready and waiting for Jabari. IDF intelligence had pinpointed a moment when the Hamas chief could be nabbed: during his return from a visit to one of his wives’ houses, as he drove along the highway in a private vehicle with just one or two guards.

“The odds that he would have been taken alive were high,” IDF sources were quoted as saying. “We had the right equipment to ensure that he would have survived the ambush.”

However, as IDF commandos waited alongside the Gaza highway, they suddenly received orders to return to Israel. After driving along the highway toward the ambush, following his usual route, Jabari’s driver had suddenly turned aside and used a different road.

The driver’s decision ultimately led to Jabari’s death: in 2012, following weeks of rocket attacks, the IDF assassinated Jabari with a targeted strike on his car. Had he been successfully apprehended in 2008, it is likely he would have remained alive.

Gilad Shalit was later released in exchange for the release of over 1,000 terrorists who had been in prison in Israel, including many mass murderers.