IAF Eliminates Top Hamas Leader

The IAF killed a top Hamas leader on Thursday. Nizar Rayyan was considered the group's link to the Izz al-Din al-Qassam military wing.

Hana Levi Julian and Yehudah Kay , | updated: 9:47 PM

Site of IAF air strike
Site of IAF air strike
Israel News Photo: Flash 90

The IAF killed a top Hamas leader on Thursday afternoon and 10 others in an air strike with pinpoint accuracy.

The 3:00 p.m. strike eliminated Nizar Rayyan, at least two of his wives and seven of their children as well as a number of other family members.  IAF pilots bombed Rayyan's home in the northern Gaza community of Jabaliya, which also contained many explosives and served as a terrorist headquarters.  The terrorist commander had been urging Arabs to renew suicide bombings against Israel.

"We do not need money or weapons -- we only need your prayers," he told a group at a Gaza mosque on Wednesday, calling on Muslims everywhere to pray for Gaza's Arabs. "We can handle the enemy ourselves."

Rayyan's neighbors told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency that Rayyan had ignored a warning from the IDF to evacuate civilians from his home.

The IDF issued a statement after the strike identifying Rayyan as the target. "Many secondary explosions were identified as a result of the attack, thus proving that the house was used for storing weaponry," the statement continued. "It was also used as a communications center. In addition, a tunnel was located under the house and was used for the escape of terror operatives."

Surgical Strike Eliminates Ashdod Attackers
Shortly after a Grad rocket hit an apartment building in the port city of Ashdod early Thursday afternoon, the IDF managed to locate the terrorist cell responsible for the launch. Within minutes, the IAF destroyed the cell and the rocket launcher used by the terrorists. An army spokesman said if the IDF cannot prevent a rocket launch, it strives to immediately locate the rocket launching squad after it fires the missile and neutralize the terrorists.

A short time later, IAF pilots struck three houses in northern Gaza containing anti-tank missiles, rockets, mortars and bombs. The houses, belonging to three terrorist leaders, also contained weapons laboratories manufacturing facilities.
Overnight Action
The IAF launched a number of overnight sorties, destroying a mosque in Khan Yunis, a college which served as a terrorist training center and several smuggling tunnels. A number of vehicles in Gaza City were targeted as well. All served as weapons storage facilities or contained terrorists.

Also overnight, the IAF struck a number of Hamas government buildings across Gaza, including the parliament building and the Education and Transportation Ministries, which were completely destroyed. The Justice Ministry in Gaza City was also targeted for the first time as well.

The head of the Rafiah branch of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades division of Hamas, Abu Anas Chabana, narrowly escaped an attack on his home by IAF pilots as well. The house was destroyed in the strike, and several nearby homes were damaged. Three neighbors were killed, local sources said.

EarlyBird Sorties
The Israel Navy early Thursday morning struck homes belonging two Hamas commanders at Nusseirat. It was not clear whether anyone was in the buildings at the time. A Hamas building in Maghazi, also in the central region, was destroyed as well.

Three terrorists were wounded in an air strike on a rocket factory in Khan Younis, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. A second such factory was also struck in Gaza City.

Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, the Israel Air Force has carried out more than 500 sorties against Gaza targets, killing more than 400 terrorists and wounding some 1,600 others.

Gaza terrorists have launched more than 200 missiles at Israel since last Saturday, including short, medium and long-range rockets, killing three civilians and wounding dozens of others.