Air strikes continue as Netanyahu says Israel sent a “clear message” to Hamas through the killing of its military chief.
Israel sent a “clear message” to Hamas through the killing of its top military commander and is ready to widen its operation in Gaza if necessary, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has warned.
Speaking hours after a major wave of air strikes pounded targets in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, killing Ahmad Jabari and at least eight other people, Netanyahu vowed that Israel would not tolerate any further rocket fire on its territory.
Arab countries condemned the killing, with the Arab League announcing it was to hold an emergency meeting on Saturday and Egypt recalling its ambassador to Israel.
In a televised address on Wednesday evening, Netanyahu said: “Today we sent a clear message to Hamas and other terrorist organisations, and if it becomes necessary we are prepared to expand the operation.
“Hamas and the terror organisations have chosen to escalate their attacks on the citizens of Israel in recent days,” he said after consultations with his security cabinet.
“We will not tolerate a situation in which Israeli citizens are threatened by rocket fire.”
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Gaza, said: “In the last 30 seconds there was another big blast. [The strikes] have been going on all evening.
“It is not just air strikes, but also strikes from Israeli naval ships just off the coast of Gaza.”
Baba said the streets of Gaza City on Wednesday evening were “eerily quiet, except for the sound of ambulances”.
“The latest from medical sources is that at least seven people have been killed, including two children, and at least 60 people have been wounded, including 10 children.”
‘Gates of hell’
The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas headed by Jabari, issued a communique saying Israel had “opened the gates of hell on itself,” and Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said the strike was tantamount to a “declaration of war”.
“The occupation committed a dangerous crime and crossed all the red lines, which is considered a declaration of war,” he said in a statement.
“The occupation will pay dearly for this and we will make it regret the moment they thought about it.”
Hamas said it had fired at least 20 rockets into Israel in retaliation for Jabari’s killing.
Mark Regev, spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office, told Al Jazeera: “We are continuing to hit Hamas targets, and their missile sites, because we knew they would responding immediately…Ultimately we did not want this round of fighting, it was forced upon us.
“We will not allow Hamas to terrorise our civilian population. All the options are open.
“Our most important goal is to protect our people. Hamas has deliberately targeted civilians. They deliberately use Gaza civilians as human shields, too.”
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