Hamas's military commander has been killed in an Israeli air strike in a move likely to herald a dramatic rise in violence in Gaza.
Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of the Islamist organisation's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, died when his car was struck in Gaza City by a missile after Israel warned it may step up targeted assassinations, having endured almost a week of intense rocket fire from Gaza. Reports suggested three other Palestinians were also killed.
The target was confirmed by both the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Hamas. In a statement, the IDF said Jaabari was "a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas command", and had been "directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years".
Its operation was intended "to severely impair the command-and-control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure. This was a surgical operation in co-operation with the Israeli security agency that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities."
Israeli military sources said the strike had been the result of "precise intelligence" gathered over a period of months. The Israeli air force carried out multiple air strikes on Wednesday in an operation it named Cloud Pillar, suggesting it had launched a continuing offensive ( via guardian.co.uk ).