Israel’s armed forces launched multiple air-strikes across the Gaza Strip Nov. 14, after killing Ahmad al-Jaabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing the Qassam Brigades, in a missile strike on his vehicle in Gaza City. Palestinian officials said at least six people have been killed in the airstrikes, including a 7-year-old child in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City, and an infant in home in the city’s Shujaiyya neighborhood. Medics identified two of the casualties as Hamas fighters. Another 50 are reported injured. The strikes were aimed at Hamas police and security forces headquarters across the Strip. “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a Twitter message.
Immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and the al-Qassam brigades vowed to strike back. “The occupation has opened the doors of hell,” the Qassam Brigades said in a statement. Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishiq said al-Jaabari’s blood would be “a curse on the occupier, and a fire which will set the ground ablaze under the occupiers’ feet.” Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya said Israel would pay a “heavy toll” for the assassination. “The battle is now open, and I advise the enemy to watch Hamas and Palestinian resistance’ response.”
“Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences,” the Islamic Jihad movement said, adding that its fighters have received orders to “respond fiercely” to the killing of al-Jaabari. All militant factions in the Gaza Strip are on a state of alert and will retaliate “in hours,” Abu Ahmad said.
The spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees made a similar statement. “Cowardly settlers had better flee to shelters where we will bury them and they will never be able to leave,” Abu Mujahid told Ma’an News Agency. A truce which ended five days of deadly fighting earlier this week is now over, the PRC’s military wing, the al-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said in a statement.
Three Palestinian fighters and four non-combatants had been killed and some 40 wounded by Israeli fire between Nov. 11 and Nov. 13, when the truce was announced. Eight Israeli civilians were injured by some of the 115 rockets fired from Gaza in retaliation. Four Israeli soldiers were also wounded by the Gaza-fired missile that hit their jeep and sparked the fighting.
Israel’s military spokesman Yoav Mordechai said the assassination could draw rocket attacks from Gaza and stretch into days of fighting. “The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted,” Mordechai told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. “The homefront must brace itself resiliently.” Asked if Israel might send ground forces into Gaza, Mordechai said: “There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of a entry by ground is available.” (Ma’an News, Ma’an News, NYT, Nov. 14; Reuters, Nov. 13)