Hamas leader in Gaza killed by Israeli strike
by Karin Brulliard
November 14, 2012
JERUSALEM â€” An Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday killed a senior military commander of Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza. The Israeli army said the strike was the start of an operation to cripple militant organizations that fire rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel.
Several more strikes, which the Israeli military said had targeted long-range rocket launching sites, followed. Witnesses and Hamas officials said four other people were killed in the attacks, and several people were injured. It was not immediately clear whether any of the dead or injured were civilians.
Israeli jets and helicopters continued to fly over the Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening.
The announcement of the operation, which Israel dubbed Pillar of Defense, followed the latest spate of fighting between Israel and Gaza-based militants, whoÂ launched more than 150 rockets into IsraelÂ during the past week. That firing appeared to have died down by Tuesday, but the killing of the Hamas commander, Ahmed Jabari, is likely to renew the battles.
Jabari, deputy commander of Hamas's military wing, is the most senior Hamas official to be assassinated since Israel's devastating offensive against Gaza nearly four years ago. That offensive, too, was described by Israel as an attempt to stop rocket fire from the coastal strip.
Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, told reporters Wednesday that an Israeli jet had targeted a vehicle carrying Jabari, whom she said had been involved in several terror attacks inside Israel and had "a lot of blood on his hands."
Jabari had long been at the top of Israel's most-wanted list. Israel blamed him for the 2006 kidnapping ofÂ Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit,Â whoseÂ release in 2011Â Jabari helped negotiate.
Leibovich would provide no details about the projected length, scale or methods of the offensive. "This is the beginning of an operation," she said. But the Israeli military later tweeted that "all options are on the table" and said it is "ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza" if necessary.
In Gaza, mosques were filled with men mourning Jabari and vowing revenge. Hamas officials said they would strike back.
"This assassination is a serious crime, and they crossed the red line," said Fauzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza. "It's time to declare war."
As a wave of rocket fire sent Israelis in southern communities scurrying for bomb shelters over the weekend, Israeli officials issuedÂ increasingly loud warningsÂ that they would not hesitate to retaliate, and analysts predicted that the military might launch a campaign of assassinations of Hamas leaders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who pledged to take "whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this," huddled with senior cabinet members on Tuesday to discuss a potential response.
But by Wednesday, Israeli media reports and commentators said that the slowdown in rocket fire made an Israeli operation unlikely.
Islam Abdul-Karim contributed reported from Gaza City.
Related Topics: Gaza, Hamas, Israel
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