IDF Kills Hamas's 'Chief of Staff', Launches Major Operation
The IAF fired a missile at a car in Gaza Wednesday, killing the commander of Hamas's "military" terror wing, Ahmed Jaabari. Israel's TV Channel 2 says his son was also killed.
There are reports that Raed al-Atar, Commander of Hamas's southern division, has also been killed.
Hamas responded by saying that it was now in a state of "open war" with Israel with no date set for its end.
The IAF reportedly also struck targets in Khan Younes and Rafiah. Channel 2 said that the IAF has been striking launch silos for Hamas's longer-range Fajr rockets, which can hit central Israel, in order to preclude their use. About 20 reinforced silos holding Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 silos were reportedly hit.
Nine people have been killed in Gaza, according to reports.
The IDF has begun a wide scale operation, which has been named "Amud Anan," a phrase that refers to the column-shaped cloud that led the Israelites in Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt. The official English name is Pillar of Defense.
Terrorists fired at least 10 missiles at Be'er Sheva, after firing at Sderot and Ashkelon. There have been no reports of casualties. Iron Dome anti-missile batteries successfully intercepted most of the rockets fired at Be'er Sheva.
Terrorists also launched a rocket from Gaza at Dimona, where Israel operates a nuclear plant. The rocket landed in an open area. There are no reports of injuries.
Egypt's response to the events is not yet known. Cairo denounced what it said was "Israeli aggression in Gaza" Wednesday evening and Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi held consultations with senior officials to decide on his course of action. Hamas has been calling upon Morsi to show that he is not like his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Hamas is saying that the "new Egypt" under Morsi must withdraw from the Camp David accords with Israel and expel Israel's ambassador in Cairo.
Among other exploits, Ahmed Jaabari, 52, was personally responsible for the abduction and holding of IDF Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Raed al-Atar was in charge of Hamas's smuggling tunnels. He was released from jail in Israeli in 1995.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak appear to have purposely diverted attention away from Gaza by visiting northern Israel and publicly discussing the Syrian threat Wednesday, in order to make it easier to catch the Hamas off guard.
The IDF Spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, announced on his Facebook page that "A harsh blow has landed upon Hamas's command and control array, as the IDF hit Ahmed Jaabari, the head of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza, who headed the organization and dealt directly with carrying out terror attacks against Israel.
"We are at the beginning of a wide scale attack, in view of the unbearable situation of the residents of the South," he added.
"While we are not talking about conquering all of Gaza," Mordechai told Channel 2, "there is preparation for a ground operation as well, which will be undertaken if it is necessary. The required military units that need to be diverted for such an operation are at the ready," he said.
"The occupation has opened the gates of hell on itself," said a statement from Hamas's Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which vowed its terrorists would "continue the path of resistance."
The United States is closely watching developments in Gaza following the killing Wednesday of Hamas' military chief in an Israeli air strike, a Pentagon spokesman said.
"We're monitoring the situation closely. We stand by our Israeli partners in their right to defend themselves against terrorism," Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Warren said.
President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, met Monday with his Israeli counterpart, Yaakov Amidror, at the White House.