Israeli regime launched airstrikes against Gaza on Tuesday, assassinating a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement that sparked a barrage of retaliatory rocket fire from the besieged enclave into the occupied territories.
In a statement, the Islamic Jihad’s military wing, Al-Quds Brigades, confirmed the death of its commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, 42, in an Israeli aerial assault on his Gaza home. Al-Atta's wife was also killed in the blast that ripped through the building in Gaza City's Shejaiya district before dawn. At least two others were wounded, according to medics.
Additionally, the resistance group stressed that its commander was heroically defending the Palestinian land against conspiracies prior to his martyrdom.
It also vowed to continue in the footsteps of its assassinated commander in order to “complete the process of liberation of the entire beloved Palestine. Our response will inevitably shock the Zionist entity.”
Assassination ordered by Netanyahu
The Israeli army has confirmed its strike against a building where Ata was present in Gaza’s Shejaiya area.
The operation, it added, had been recommended by the Chief of Staff and Shin Bet domestic security service, and approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It also blamed Ata for recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel, as well as attempted infiltration into the occupied territories, claiming that he had been planning “imminent” attacks.
“Abu al-Ata was responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip and was a ticking bomb,” the Israeli army said.
Quds Brigades, Hamas vow due response
The al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, has vowed a major response to Ata’s assassination in a statement.
“We announce the general mobilization of our fighters and units and we affirm that the response to this crime will have no limits and will be tantamount to the size of the crime that the criminal enemy perpetrated,” the statement said.
Ata, the Quds Brigades added, was “one of the most prominent members of its military council and the commander of the northern part” of Gaza.
Separately, the fellow Hamas resistance movement said Israel “bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation” and pledged that Ata’s death “will not go unpunished.”
Gaza responds with rocket barrage
Shortly after the Israeli strike, Palestinians launched a salvo of rockets into the occupied territories, setting off sirens in Tel Aviv, Sderot, Gedera and Ashdod.
"Non-essential" workers in Tel Aviv and central cities have been told to stay home. Schools and universities are closed. A ban on public gatherings is also in place.
The Israeli army said Gaza-based Palestinian resistance fighters had pounded the occupied-territories with “substantial” rocket fire Tuesday.
“There is substantial fire,” army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists in a conference call. “We are preparing for a number of days of fighting.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli regime targeted another Islamic Jihad figure in Syria, but failed to assassinate him.
Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike had hit the home of Akram al-Ajouri in Damascus, killing his son and another person. The Islamic Jihad confirmed the death of Ajouri’s son.
The assassination is likely to fuel tensions between Tel Aviv and Gaza, which has been under a crippling siege by Israel since 2007 and witnessed three wars since 2008.
Gaza has also witnessed deadly tensions since March 30, 2018 which marked the start of the Great March of Return protests, with participants demanding the right to return for the Palestinians driven out of their homeland.