Israel kills Gaza's top militant commander

Reuters/Gaza City
Filed on November 12, 2019 | Last updated on November 12, 2019 at 10.42 pm
Israel, kills, Gaza, top,  militant commander, Gaza Strip, Palestinian rockets, Israeli air strikes, Khaled Al Batsh
ROCKET SALVO: Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a burning vehicle in front of a factory that was reportedly hit with rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in the town of Sderot.- AFP

Israel did not comment on the separate strike which Damascus accused it of carrying out in Syria.

Israel killed a top commander from the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, drawing rocket salvoes that reached as far as Tel Aviv in the worst cross-border fighting in months.

The rare targeted strike which killed Islamic Jihad's Baha Abu Al Atta in Gaza came as Syrian state media said a separate missile attack had hit the home of an Islamic Jihad official in Damascus, killing two people including one of his sons.

As the sound of Palestinian rockets and Israeli air strikes echoed throughout Gaza and Israeli towns across the border, Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al Batsh spoke at the midday Gaza funeral of Al Atta.

"Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war," he said. Mourners fired guns into the air, chanting "revenge!"

In Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described Al Atta as a "ticking bomb" who was responsible for a string of recent cross-border rocket, drone and sniper attacks and was suspected of planning more very soon. "Israel is not interested in escalation, but we will do everything required to protect ourselves," said Netanyahu, who oversaw Israel's last Gaza war in 2014 but appeared to be urging restraint. "This could take time."

Israel did not comment on the separate strike which Damascus accused it of carrying out in Syria.

Possible escalation in Gaza may hinge on whether the much larger militant group that rules Gaza, Hamas, would join Islamic Jihad in firing rockets at Israel.

Israel "bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation", Hamas said in a statement, pledging that Al Atta's death "will not go unpunished".

The exchange of fire sent civilians on both sides huddling for shelter and forced businesses and schools to close.

Gaza authorities reported five people killed, including Al Atta, 42, and his wife in the pre-dawn strike that destroyed a floor in their home.

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