Islamic Jihad leader killed in Israeli strike as conflict escalates
Tel Aviv/Gaza (dpa) – Two senior Islamic Jihad leaders were targeted in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza and Syria on Tuesday, sparking one of the worst rounds of violence in the region in five years.
Baha Abu Al Ata – the 42-year-old leader of the al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip – was killed alongside his wife in an aerial attack on their house, authorities in Israel and Gaza said.
“We just targeted [an] Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza,” the IDF said. “Al Ata was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.”
In another air raid later on Tuesday morning, an Islamic Jihad militant was killed in the Gaza Strip while riding a motorcycle. The Israeli military said he had been about to launch a rocket from the bike.
“The [terrorist] organization’s rocket launching unit posed an immediate threat,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed that three people had been killed and 18 others injured in total.
Mos’ab al-Briem, the spokesman of the Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza, called the pre-dawn killing of its military leader an “assassination” and a “declaration of war against our Palestinian people.”
Gaza militants responded to the airstrikes by launching a barrage of rockets into Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome aerial defence system shot down about 20 of 50 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, an IDF statement said.
Israeli aircraft targeted military sites in the Gaza Strip in response, Palestinian security sources said. The Israeli military did not immediately confirm this.
A rocket fired from Gaza slammed into a major junction in southern Israel, narrowly missing two cars. One of the two drivers was taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds, the Magen David Adom (MDA) ambulance service confirmed.
An 8-year-old Israeli girl suffered a cardiac arrest while running to a shelter in the southern Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, the MDA added.
A rocket also directly struck a house in the town of Netivot.
Schools and kindergartens were closed and shelters opened in the greater Tel Aviv area, as two rockets were intercepted over the city.
The Israeli army published images of a damaged building on Gaza City’s south-eastern outskirts, saying it had been “surgically targeted.”
The Health Ministry in Gaza said in an emailed press statement that “two Palestinians including a woman were killed in an Israeli attack hit a house in al-Shuja’eya neighbourhood.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet and was scheduled to make a statement at noon (1000 GMT).
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