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Israel strikes Gaza after assassinating Hamas commander

Nov. 14, 2012 6:27 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 15, 2012 4:10 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel's army launched multiple airstrikes across the Gaza Strip after killing the head of Hamas' military wing on Wednesday.

Palestinian officials identified six people killed in Wednesday's strikes, including 7-year-old Ranan Arafat in the Zeitun neighborhood of Gaza City.

An 11-month-old, Ahmad Masharawi, was killed by a tank shell on his family home in the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City, a Ma'an reporter said.

Medics identified the other casualties as 20-year-old Hamas fighter Issam Abu Miza and 19-year-old Hani al-Kaseeh.

Gaza's health ministry said ten people had died, including three children and a woman pregnant with twins, while about 40 were wounded.

Amid the airstrikes, army tanks shelled border areas of Gaza in south and the Israeli navy shelled a Hamas security position from the sea.

Earlier, an Israeli jet hit a vehicle in Gaza City, killing al-Qassam Brigades leader Ahmad al-Jaabari, and his aide Muhammad Al-Hums.

The assassination was followed by strikes on Hamas police and security forces headquarters across the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said it was targeting long range rockets sites and said Gaza "has turned it into a frontal base for Iran firing rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens."

Israeli military sources said many of the munition depots were within civilian, residential buildings, but they blamed Hamas for using civilians as human shields.

The attack came despite signs that Egypt had managed to broker a truce between Israel and Gaza militants after five days of violence which left seven Palestinians dead and at least 50 injured.

Following the assassination of al-Jaabari, immediate calls for revenge were broadcast over Hamas radio and the al-Qassam brigades vowed to strike back. "The occupation has opened the doors of hell," Hamas' armed wing said in a statement.

"Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences," Islamic Jihad said.

The spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees said with al-Jaabari's assassination, "Israel has opened the gates of hell."

Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service said it had killed al-Jaabari because of his "decade-long terrorist activity".

"The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure," Israeli military sources said.

"The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted," Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 TV.

Israeli news site Ynet said Israeli troops were being moved to the south ahead of a possible ground offensive in Gaza.
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