GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Armed groups in Gaza on Wednesday vowed to respond to Israel's assassination of a top Hamas military commander.
Israel killed al-Qassam Brigades leader Ahmad al-Jaabari on Wednesday in a missile strike on his car in Gaza City.
Hamas politburo member Izzat al-Rishiq said al-Jaabari's blood would be "a curse on the occupier, and a fire which will set the ground ablaze under the occupiers' feet."
Senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Hayya said Israel would pay a "heavy toll" for the assassination. "The battle is now open, and I advise the enemy to watch Hamas and Palestinian resistance’ response."
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.
Islamic Jihad said the assassination was a declaration of war. "Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences," the movement said.
A spokesman for Islamic Jihad's military wing said fighters have received orders to "respond fiercely" to the killing of al-Jaabari.
All militant factions in the Gaza Strip are on a state of alert and will retaliate "in hours," Abu Ahmad said.
The spokesman of the Popular Resistance Committees Abu Mujahid said Israel had started a battle.
"Cowardly settlers had better flee to shelters where we will bury them and they will never be able to leave," Abu Mujahid told Ma'an Wednesday.
A truce which ended five days of deadly fighting earlier this week is now over, PRC's military wing, the al-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, said in a statement.
This week's cross-border violence left seven Palestinians dead and at least 50 injured, while Gaza factions hit southern Israel with a barrage of rockets.
Israel's military spokesman Yoav Mordechai said the assassination could draw rocket attacks from Gaza and stretch into days of fighting.
"The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted," Mordechai told Israel's Channel 2 TV. "The homefront must brace itself resiliently."
Asked if Israel might send ground forces into Gaza, Mordechai said: "There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of a entry by ground is available."