Israel kills senior leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza air strike


Israel's military killed a commander of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire and fears of a severe escalation in violence.

Islamic Jihad issued a statement on Tuesday confirming the attack, identifying the official as Akram al-Ajouri.

It also blamed Ata for recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel, as well as attempted infiltration into the occupied territories, claiming that he was planning "imminent" attacks.

Minutes after the Iran-backed group confirmed the leader's death, barrages of rockets could be heard fired toward Israel. The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floor of a house in the Shejaeya neighborhood, in the eastern part of Gaza City.

"We are going to war", said Ziad al-Nakhala, the secretary general of Islamic Jihad. It did not elaborate, but vowed revenge. Syrian state media earlier reported that at least two people were killed and six wounded in an attack in the early hours that targeted a building in Damascus, without saying who had been targeted or who had carried out the attack. Relatives said the woman was Abu el-Arya's wife and the wounded were their children. He was responsible for many terrorist attacks and the firing of rockets at Israel in recent months and had meant to carry out imminent attacks. Air raid sirens continued to go off throughout the morning, in rapid succession, as far as Tel Aviv. Israeli police said they closed some roads on the edge of Gaza as a precaution.

Islamic Jihad often carries out attacks independent of Hamas, the larger militant group that controls Gaza.

Around an hour after the killings in Gaza, multiple rocket alerts sounded in southern Israel, including in Ashdod, Beit Elazari, Ashkelon, Zikim, Karmia, and as far north as Holon and Rishon Le Zion, in the suburbs of Tel Aviv, signalling retaliation from Islamic Jihad was underway. "There was no other choice", he said. Bennet has been clamouring for a more aggressive stance toward Gaza.

Since Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007 from the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, Israel and Gaza militants have fought three wars, with the third in 2014 lasting for 50 days.