14 Nov 2012

Hamas military chief Jaabari killed by Israeli air strike

The head of the military wing of Hamas dies in a targeted strike by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, because of his “decade-long terrorist activity”.

Warning: the above report contains images you may find distressing

The Palestinian Islamist group said an Israeli air strike hit a car in the Gaza Strip, killing Ahmed al-Jaabari, who ran the organisation’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, and a passenger.

Israel said the killing of Jaabari and a passenger in his car was not the end of this operation and more attacks on Gazan militants would follow.

Hamas said the airstrike had “opened the gates of hell”.

Read Jonathan Rugman's blog on the Israeli launch of Operation Pillar of Smoke and the death of al-Jaabari

Hamas official Khalil al Haya (see video above) said: “Ahmed Al Jaabari has for long worked and waited for this day. He built, founded and led, and he was victorious in all positions, today he is getting his victory as a martyr.

“Our zionist enemy will, God willing, pay a price for this cowardly assassination because he is one of the most Hamas and Qassam (Hamas military wing) leaders.”

Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service confirmed it had carried out the attack, saying it had killed Jabari because of his “decade-long terrorist activity”.

The Israel Defence Forces also released an aerial video of its strike on Jaabari’s car.

Avital Leibovitch, a military spokesman, said: “This is an operation against terror targets of different organisations in Gaza.” He added that Jaabari had “a lot of blood on his hands”.

The incident appeared to end a 24-hour lull in cross-border violence that surged this week.

The Foreign Office called for restraint from both sides:

The Egyptian government said it “strongly condemns” the attacks. Foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said: “Regarding what is happening in Gaza and the Israeli offensive and airstrikes on the area, Egypt strongly and with all clarity condemns what Israel is doing in Gaza from air strikes and assassinations to the killing of civilians.

“This is an unacceptable act and we deeply condemn it.”

Jaabari is the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago. He has long topped Israel’s most-wanted list.

Jaabari, a relative of one of the founders of Hamas, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, was responsible for the attack on Kerem Shalom, when IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and two other soldiers killed. Jaabari was in charge of negotiations during Shalit’s five years in captivity.

Whoever thinks that they can damage the daily lives of residents of the south, and that they won’t pay a heavy price for this – they are mistaken. Binyamin Netanyahu

On Tuesday, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told mayors of southern Israeli cities under rocket attack that it was his responsibility to choose the right time to “exact the heaviest price” for the continual rocket fire from Gaza.

Since the flare-up with Gaza began, Mr Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak have promised a sharp Israeli response to the rocket fire.

During the Be’er Sheva meeting with the southern Israeli mayors, Mr Netanyahu said that Israel is not expected to undertake significant military action in Gaza at this stage, or to renew assassinations of Gaza militants.

“I am responsible for us choosing the right time to exact the heaviest price, and so be it,” Netanyahu said. “Whoever thinks that they can damage the daily lives of residents of the south, and that they won’t pay a heavy price for this – they are mistaken.”