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It was at that meeting, political sources said, that a Shin Bet plan to assassinate Jaabari was approved and the first act of deception was played out: Benny Begin, a member of the forum, went on Israeli radio to say the current round of violence appeared to be over.
Hamas apparently bought the message. Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for the group, said Israel, in launching the offensive, had violated an informal truce brokered by mediators.
“The factions abided by the understanding of calm, and the occupation (Israel) bears the responsibility for the consequences that will follow the ugly crime,” he said.
Israel had largely suspended assassinations of top Hamas men in recent years, strikes that could have triggered wider violence along the Gaza frontier.
It focused instead on targeting rocket launching crews in low-intensity warfare marked by cyclical cross-border exchanges usually calmed by Egyptian-mediated ceasefires.
But a looming January national election had increased public pressure on the right-wing Netanyahu to take stronger military action in Gaza to rein in Hamas. A successful campaign could also be a boon for Barak, whose small party, opinion polls show, might not even win enough votes to be returned to parliament.
The initial outlook at home for the two leaders was good: Jaabari’s killing and the start of the offensive drew nearly across-the-board political support from Netanyahu’s rivals, who suspended campaigning in a display of national unity.
Israel used similar ruses to conceal its plans before launching its three-week Gaza war in December 2008.
Days before that offensive began, Barak - defence minister then, as now - made an unusual and unannounced live appearance on a top-rated TV satire show, giving the impression that starting a war could not be further from his mind.
In another twist at the time, officers were summoned from garrisons around Gaza to a weekend with their families at a countryside spa. All but the most senior of those invited commanders were then surprised to be woken up, that Saturday morning, and sent back to base for combat within hours.