GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories— A top Hamas commander was among seven people killed in more than 20 Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, as Israel began an operation targeting militant groups.
Ahmed Jaabari, the operational commander of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, was killed alongside his bodyguard, Mohammed al-Hams, in an initial Israeli strike on a car in Gaza City which took place just before 4:00 pm (1400 GMT), the Islamist movement said.
Shortly afterwards, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with another 20 air strikes, killing five more people, two of them children, Hamas health minister Mufid Mukhalalati said in a televised press conference at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital.
He said another 30 people had been injured in the wave of strikes on targets across the territory which hit Gaza City, the northern town of Beit Lahiya and the southern city of Khan Yunis.
“The Israeli occupation has carried out more than 20 air strikes on targets and headquarters of the police and security in the Gaza Strip,” interior ministry spokesman Islam Shahwan told AFP.
Hospitals and medical centres across Gaza were put on high alert after the initial strikes as Israel warned the hit on Jaabari was only “the beginning” and said “a significant number” of militant arms dumps were within civilian and residential areas.
The attacks came after a flare-up in violence between Israel and Gaza-based groups, which saw more than 120 rockets fired from the Palestinian territory into the Jewish state, and Israeli air strikes and shelling that killed seven people.