Israels military killed a commander of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, triggering exchanges of fire and fears of a severe escalation in violence.
The targeted strike led to barrages of retaliatory rocket fire into Israel followed by Israeli air raids, and Gazas health ministry reported five people killed and 30 wounded in the Palestinian enclave.
Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad militant sites as well as rocket-launching squads in the raids.
The rocket fire into Israel caused damage and several injuries, with at least one rocket hitting a house and another narrowly missing passing cars on a highway.
A factory in the city of Sderot was also hit, sparking a fire.
Israeli medics said they had treated 39 people.
Reports that a separate strike targeted an Islamic Jihad member in Damascus added to the days tensions.
Islamic Jihad confirmed one of its officials, Akram Ajouri, was targeted in Damascus, with Syrian state news agency SANA reporting an Israeli strike had hit Ajouris home, “killing his son Muadh and another person”.
Israel did not comment on that strike.
The initial Israeli raid in Gaza early Tuesday, thought to have been carried out by a drone, killed Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, 42.
Islamic Jihad confirmed his death along with that of his wife.
Israel blamed Ata for recent rocket fire into its territory and said he was preparing further attacks.
As the retaliatory rocket fire followed, air raid sirens rang out in various parts of Israel as residents took cover in bomb shelters.
Israels military said on Tuesday morning that around 50 rockets had been fired at its territory and air defences had intercepted around 20 of them, but that number increased throughout the day.
Video spread online showing the rocket that hit the highway at Gan Yavne in Israels centre, narrowly missing cars.
Islamic Jihad, allied to Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, claimed responsibility for rocket fire from the strip.
Schools were closed in both the Gaza Strip and in parts of Israel, including in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.
The Israeli army ordered “non-essential” workers in Tel Aviv, central Israel and the Gaza border region to stay at home and banned public gatherings.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged that Ata had over the past year “planned and executed many attacks” and “fired hundreds of rockets at communities adjoining Gaza”.
“Israel is not interested in escalation, but we shall do everything necessary in order to defend ourselves,” he said in a televised statement from defence headquarters.
“Im telling you in advance, it could take time.”
Nadav Argaman, head of domestic security agency Shin Bet which took part in the targeted strike, said the operation “allowed us to reach the level of the bed in which he slept, the small room in which he lived, in which he hid.”
Damage from a blast could be seen at Atas home in the Shejayia district of eastern Gaza City.
Mosque loudspeakers rang out with news of Atas death early Tuesday and crowds joined his funeral procession through the streets of the city, occasionally firing guns into the air.
A joint statement by Gazas militant groups said Israel had crossed “all red lines” and would face consequences.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said “tRead More – Source