On Wednesday, Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, head of the Hamas military branch, was killed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City.
This attack is the result of increasing tensions between the Gaza Strip and the Israeli army, following a series of rocket attacks from Gaza in the last week. Since Saturday, over 115 rockets have been fired by militants in Gaza, wounding four Israeli soldiers. Israel reacted with a series of air strikes, 20 according to a member of the Israeli army, with the objective of destroying rocket launch capacities.
The latest air strike on Wednesday morning killed Mr. Al-Jabari, as well in his assistant who was with Al-Jabari in the targeted vehicle. As the head of the military wing of Hamas, called the Ezzeddine Al-Kassam Brigades, Mr. Al-Jabari is the highest Hamas leader killed by Israel since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. Mr. Al-Jabari, 52, became the de-facto leader of the Hamas military branch when Mohamed Raif, head of Ezzeddine Al-Kassam, suffered multiple injuries from an Israeli attack in 2002.
Knowing to be on the Israeli wanted list, Mr. Al-Jabari has been living in hiding for several years. He was one of the architects of the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was a prisoner in Gaza for 5 years. Shalit was exchanged for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Al-Jabari broke his usual clandestine lifestyle to accompany Mr. Shalit to the airport in front of news stations from all over the world.
The Israeli Defense Forces stated that Mr. Al-Jabari has been specifically targeted because he “was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years.” Yisrael Katz, a minister from the governing party in Israel said the government is sending a message to Hamas that “Israel will continue to kill and target anyone who is involved in the rocket attacks.” Tension is continuing to escalate and the IDF is saying it will not hesitate to evolve the situation into a complete military operation if necessary.
The reactions on both sides raise fear of a sharp increase in violence. The ferocity of the air strikes, which killed at least eight people and injured more, has led to waves of rage in Gaza. Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesmen said, “Israel will regret the moment they even thought of doing this.” The Ezzeddine Al-Kassam brigades said Israel “opened the gates of hell” with their offensive.
International reactions have highlighted the danger of situation. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for “immediate de-escalation of tensions.” Egypt, who has been trying to negotiate a ceasefire for the past five days, has condemned the Israeli air strikes. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr called “Israel to stop its strikes on Gaza Strip immediately.” The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the Arab League to hold an urgent meeting to find a resolution.
The evolution of the conflicts will need to be followed closely as events continue to unwind. According to the latest CNN report, the IDF has scheduled three more air strikes this evening. Additionally, reports of more rockets from Gaza have been rolling in, most recently near a Dimona nuclear power plant. No injuries or damage were reported from that attack. The Iron Dome missile defense system has intercepted rockets fired at Be’er Sheva.