Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its top leaders, Tayseer Al Jabari, had been killed in an Israeli attack. He was commander of the Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the group said, and a member of the Military Council.
The Palestinian health ministry said at least nine people were killed, including a five-year-old girl, and another 55 were injured.
A CNN producer in Gaza saw medics carrying two bodies from a building, the Palestine Tower, that had been hit in one of the attacks.
An Israeli army statement said the military operation, which it dubbed “Breaking Dawn,” targeted Islamic Jihad, the smaller of Gaza’s two main militant groups. A “special situation” has been declared in areas around Gaza, pending possible rocket fire or other retaliatory attacks, the Israeli military said.
Islamic Jihad has vowed to respond. “All options are open, by any means the Palestinian resistance has, whether in Gaza or beyond,” Al Jazeera spokesman Daoud Shehab said. “The battlefield is open … The resistance will respond with all its strength. We will not say how, but it is inevitable.”
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has condemned the Israeli action. “The Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
The attacks come after Israeli forces captured a senior Islamic Jihad commander Bassam al-Saadi during an attack Monday night in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
During that operation, according to the Israeli army, a 17-year-old Palestinian with links to Islamic Jihad was shot dead in a firefight with Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian health ministry said he was shot in the head by Israeli troops.
Saadi was one of two wanted terror suspects apprehended in that raid, Israel said. The Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said it would mobilize its troops across the Palestinian territories in response.
In recent months, there have been repeated Israeli operations in and around Jenin, after several deadly attacks were carried out in Israel by Palestinian gunmen from the region. According to the Palestinian health ministry, 30 Palestinians have been killed in the raids since the beginning of this year.
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