Reuters reported that Israel launched an offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza this week that killed the military commander of Hamas during an air strike. The operation, called ‘Pillar of Defence,’ started with a strike on a vehicle that was transporting the commander of the military wing of Hamas, which is in control of Gaza. The commander killed was Ahmed Al-Jaabari.
According to the health ministry, the death toll rose quickly, with seven civilians being killed in the airstrikes. Two of those killed were females under five years old. This could turn into a second Gaza war. From 2008 to 2009, Operation Cast Lead by Israel started with airstrikes and shelling. Then a land invasion occurred while Gaza was blocked at sea by the Israeli navy. Close to 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis died.
Jaabari, the head of Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, was killd with an unarmed associate when the car was hit by a missile from Israel. Israel announced after the attack that it was responsible and that more attacks would occur.
“This is an operation against terror targets of different organisations in Gaza,” Israeli army spokeswoman Colonel Avital Leibovitch told reporters. Islamic Jihad is another militant group on the attack list.
The armed wing of Hamas vowed retaliation on the radio, “The occupation has opened the gates of hell.”
Islamic Jihad said, “Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences.”
Towns in Southern Israel were on alert Thursday and schools were closed since those areas are within range of Gaza rockets. “The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted,” Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, Israel’s chief military spokesman. “The home front must brace itself resiliently.”
Mordechai said that the targets earlier this week were aimed at caches of long-range Hamas rockets held underground. Mordechai said the following when he was asked if Israel would activate ground forces: “There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of an entry by ground is available.”
Shin Bet, the intelligence agency for Israel, said that Jaabari was responsible for the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged strong responses to Hamas attacks as the general election in Israel approaches. It is scheduled for January 22, 2013. The strikes by Israel on the Gaza Strip were condemned by Egypt and urged Israel to end the strikes immediately. Historically, Hamas has received support from Iran, which is seen as a threat to Israel.