Hamas vows revenge after Israel kills military chief

5 min

Ahmed al-Jaabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, was killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza, on Wednesday. Hamas immediately vowed retribution for the attack as Israel declared it was "ready" to launch a ground assault.


Summary of events

• Israel kills Hamas military commander in air strike
• Hamas vows revenge saying Israel had “opened gates of hell”
• Israel says strike is just beginning of operation, does not rule out ground assault
• Palestinian Authority urges UN to take action
• US defends Israel’s right to self-defense
• Egypt recalls ambassador to Israel

Top Hamas commander Ahmed al-Jaabari was killed in an Israeli air strike on a car in Gaza City on Wednesday in what Israel said is just the start of an operation against militants.

The commander of Hamas' military wing was killed as Israel launched a wave of air strikes on the coastal strip, killing at least six people, according to officials in Gaza. Palestinian militants immediately threatened Israel with reprisals, warning it had "opened the gates of hell".

After being targeted by several rocket attacks in recent days, Israel warned that the assassination of al-Jaabari was not the end of targeted air strikes. The Israeli army was also prepared to launch a ground operation "if necessary", officials warned.

'Al-Jaabari was key to Hamas'

Hours after the attack, the Israeli government released a statement saying it was authorising the selective call-up of army reserves.

Following the strikes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a "clear message" had been sent to Hamas.

"Today we sent a clear message to Hamas and other terrorist organisations, and if it becomes necessary we are prepared to expand the operation," Netanyahu said in a televised address.

Israel also sent a stern warning to Hamas militants.

“We recommend that no Hamas terrorists, low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead," wrote Netanyahu spokesman Ofir Gendelman on his official Twitter account.

The United States supported the air strike against Al-Jaabari saying Israel had a right to self-defense but in a statement the US State Department said “we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties”.

‘Gates of Hell’

Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel on Wednesday after Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip killed Hamas’s top military commander and at least six other Palestinians, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.

“President Mohamed Mursi has followed the Israeli brutal assault in which a number of martyrs and sons of the Palestinian people were killed,” Yasser Ali said in a statement on television and on his Facebook website.

“On this basis he has recalled the Egyptian ambassador from Israel; has ordered the Egyptian representative at the United Nations to call for an emergency meeting at the Security Council ... and summoned the Israeli ambassador in Egypt in protest over the assault,” the statement added.


Al-Jaabari became the most senior Hamas official to be killed since an Israeli invasion of Gaza four years ago. The commander had long topped Israel’s most-wanted list for his alleged role string of attacks, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

His death represents a dramatic resumption of Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian militant leaders.

After the attack, Hamas issued its own warning to Israel, threatening to carry out retribution for the death of the commander.

"The occupation has opened the gates of hell on itself," said a statement from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which vowed its militants would "continue the path of resistance."

Furious protests erupted in Gaza City with hundreds of members of Hamas and its armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, chanting for revenge in and around the Shifa hospital where Jaabari's body was taken.

The Palestinian Authority urged the UN Security Council to take a stand on Israel’s latest offensive in the Gaza strip, which it said in a letter to the council amounted to “illegal criminal actions”.

“This escalation, which continues at this moment, demands the attention of the international community, including the Security Council, with the aim of averting the further deterioration and destabilization of the situation on the ground and the fuelling by Israel of yet another deadly cycle of violence and bloodshed,” said Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour.

Car engulfed in fire

Witnesses say al-Jaabari was travelling in his vehicle in Gaza City when his car exploded. Crowds of people and security personnel rushed to the scene of the strike, trying to put out the fire that had engulfed the car and left it a charred shell.

Hamas police cordoned off the area around a hospital where at least one body from the strike was taken. It was draped in a white sheet, with a burned leg poking out. Hamas said another man was killed in the air strike.

Hamas police said three other air strikes hit other targets in Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah.

Israeli officials had said days leading up to the attack that they were considering assassinating top Hamas officials following a wave of heavy rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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