Hamas’ military chief was killed when his car was hit by an Israeli airstrike, according to Hamas. NBCNews.com’s Dara Brown reports.
The head of the militant wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement was “assassinated” in an airstrike Wednesday, Hamas and Israeli officials said, as Israel launched a series of ongoing attacks in Gaza.
Hamas spokesman Fauazy Brehom told NBC News that Ahmed Jabari was killed in the attack by Israeli forces. Jabari was the most senior commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Ezzidine Al-Qassam Brigades.
A statement from the Al-Qassam Brigades said that Israel had “opened the gates of Hell.”
Jabari is the most senior Hamas official to have died due to Israeli military action since the killing of Saeed Seyam four years ago.
A statement on the Israel Defense Forces website said that Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz had “approved an expansive strike against terrorist organizations in Gaza.”
Emergency services extinguish the burned out destroyed car of Qassam top leader Ahmed Jabari after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on 14 November 2012.
“As a part of the program, a short while ago, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck Ahmed al-Jabari and other senior officers of Hamas’ Military Wing, who were involved in planning and implementing dozens of attacks, including the kidnapping of SFC [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit,” it said.
The airstrike took place in central Gaza, according to the statement, which was headlined “Chief of Hamas’ Military Wing Ahmed al-Jabari assassinated.” The headline was later changed to “Senior Hamas operative targeted,” and the statement dropped the reference to Shalit..
It quoted an IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, as saying military action began following the “intolerable situation in the south of the country, and seeks to harm terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.”
‘Forward base for Iran’
The IDF later announced it had begun “Operation Pillar of Defense.” Israel confirmed there had been several airstrikes and an NBC News staffer in Gaza reported that there had been at least six.
In another update, the statement said the IDF had “targeted a significant number of long range rockets sites … owned by Hamas. This deals a significant blow to the terror organizations’ underground rocket launching capabilities and munitions warehouses that are owned by Hamas and other terror organizations.”
“The Gaza strip, has turned it into a forward base for Iran, firing rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. The IDF will continue to target terrorist sites that are used to carry out terror attacks against Israeli citizens,” it said.
“The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security,” it added.
A Palestinian rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in southern Israel today, causing damage but no injuries. NBCNews.com’s Dara Brown reports.
Jabari had survived numerous assassination attempts in the past and had served close to a decade in an Israeli jail, according to NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin.
He was widely considered the second most important figure within Hamas’ overall structure after Khaled Mishaal, the head of the organization’s political bureau.
Jabari was instrumental in negotiations about the release of Shalit, Mohyeldin said. Jabari was rarely seen in public and even more seldom filmed but he was seen accompanying Shalit to the border crossing with Egypt ahead of his handover.