Israel has killed the leader of the Hamas military wing in a surgical missile strike in Gaza that could result in a fresh war in the region.

Ahmed Jabari, 46, the head of the Islamist group's military arm, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, died as he travelled by car with another senior Hamas leader in the Palestinian city.

Three Palestinians were killed in another Israeli strike on Thursday morning, the BBC has reported.

Hamas has said that Israel will "pay a high price" for the attack, according to the New York Times, while Izz ad-Din al-Qassam posted a message on its Twitter profile warning that the strike had opened the gates of hell.


Alqassam Brigades
Al Qassam: "Occupation opned hell gates on itself"#hamas

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said at least nine people have been killed in Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) launched the attack as part of Operation Pillar Of Defense and described Jabari in a statement as "a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas' command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel in the past number of years".

hamas execution

The Hamas military leader died after the IDF hit his car with a missile

The IDF said: "The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure. This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency, that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities.

"The IDF will continue to target sites that are used for carrying out terror attacks against the citizens of Israel while improving their daily security."

Jabari has long been a key target for the IDF, and topped Israel’s most-wanted list for his apparent involvement in a string of attacks against Israel, including co-ordinating the capture of soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006, who was held hostage in Gaza for more than five years.

jabri

Jabri was killed to impair the command and control of Hamas, the Israelis said

The Guardian reported that on Tuesday Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu told mayors of towns near the Gaza border: "Whoever thinks that they can damage the daily lives of residents of the south, and that they won't pay a heavy price for this, they are mistaken."

After the strike, Netanyahu said in a press statement: "Hamas and the terror organizations have elected in recent days to escalate their attacks on Israel's citizens.

"We are not prepared to make peace with a situation in which Israel's citizens are menaced by the terror of rocket fire. No country would agree to such a situation; Israel is not prepared to reconcile itself to such a situation.

"Today we have damaged the strategic targets of Hamas in a precise fashion; we have substantially damaged the launch capabilities of rockets from Gaza to central Israel and we are damaging the launch capability to Southern Israel.

"The terror organizations hurt our citizens with premeditation, while they deliberately conceal themselves behind their own citizens.

"We in contradistinction refrain to the extent possible from harming civilians; this is a fundamental difference between us and them. They would simply like to wipe us off the face of the earth and they have no reservations about harming innocent civilians.

"Today we transmitted a clear message to the Hamas organization and to other terrorist organizations and should the need arise, the IDF is prepared to expand the action. We will continue doing everything to protect our citizens."

The sound of gunfire could be heard echoing throughout Gaza following the missile strike with Hamas spokesman Taher Anunu telling BBC Arabic: "This was a heinous crime that will have repercussions."

Reuters reported Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza government, saying in a statement: “We call on our Arab brothers, and especially Egypt ... and the new Egyptian presidency, to suppress this barbaric campaign in defense of Gaza and its people."

“I call for an urgent Arab summit to confront the brutal aggression,” he added.


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Al Jazeera the assassination of Jabari is “a major escalation against our people in Gaza… We hold the Israeli government responsible."

The Jerusalem Post reported that militants in Gaza have launched at least 55 rockets into southern Israel following the assassination, but most have been deflected by the Israeli military.

The Post said six rockets landed near the town of Beersheba and one rocket struck a house in Ashdod, another damaged electric infrastructure in Eshkol.

The Foreign Office has called on Hamas and Israel "to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation".

Meanwhile, Noam Shalit, the father of Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas in 2006, urged the Israelis to consider dialogue with the extremist group, according to Haaretz Newspaper journalist Barak Ravid:


Barak Ravid
Noam Shalit (Father of Gilad Shalit): Hamas is not going nowhere. Eventually we will have to reach an agreement with them on a ceasefire

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Ann Harrison called for restraint from all sides.

She said: “All sides have to step back from the brink in order to protect civilian lives.

“The Israeli military must not carry out further indiscriminate attacks, or attacks in densely-populated residential areas that will inevitably harm civilians.

“Palestinian armed groups in Gaza meanwhile must not fire indiscriminate rockets into Israel. The international community must put pressure on both sides to fully respect the laws of war and protect civilian lives and property.”

Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has recalled the ambassador to Israel and summoned Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, calling for an "immediate halt to the attacks."

In the wake of the attack, the IDF launched a social media offensive, warning other Hamas leaders they too were targets, and live-tweeting attacks from both sides.


IDF
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.


IDF
Breaking: Israeli Navy has struck terror sites in the Strip.


IDF
Rocket fired from hits shopping center in major southern Israeli city.

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  • Explosion and smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • A rocket launched by Palestinians militants towards Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel,Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • An Israel war plane drops a bomb over the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • Explosion and smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • A Palestinian boy holds a window pane taken from a damaged house hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and rocket salvoes thudded into southern Israel, as residents on both sides of the frontier holed up at home in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

  • ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-GAZA

    An Israeli policeman inspects damages at a house that was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip in the southern city of Netivot on November 12, 2012. Gaza militants fired nine rockets at southern Israel, one of which exploded next to a house, police said, shattering an overnight calm even as Cairo sought to broker an end to 24 hours of bloodshed. AFP PHOTO/DAVID BUIMOVITCH

  • Explosion and smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZA

    Palestinian children walk past a graffiti depicting resistance fighters in Gaza City on November 12, 2012. The spike in violence, which comes as Israel is in the middle of an election campaign, raised the spectre of a broader Israeli military campaign to stamp out rocket fire, although commentators said it was unlikely it would be one on the scale of Operation Cast Lead. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED ABED (

  • An unidentified Israeli man inspects the damage to a house caused by a rocket thought to have been fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. Hostilities along the Gaza-Israel border escalated sharply over the weekend, with bombardments from Gaza causing rare Israeli casualties and Israeli strikes killing several Palestinians. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants.

  • Masked Palestinian militants from the Al Nasser Brigades, an armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), leave after a press conference in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. During the press conference the militants claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli jeep on the border with Israeli on Nov. 10, 2012 in which four soldiers were injured.

  • Masked Palestinian militants from the Al Nasser Brigades, an armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), hold a press conference in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. The militants claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli jeep on the border with Israeli on Nov. 10, 2012 in which four soldiers were injured. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • FILE - In this Sunday, March 11, 2012 file photo, a rocket is launched from the Israeli anti-missile system known as "Iron Dome" in order to intercept a rocket fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in Ashdod, Israel. Last year Israel activated the Iron Dome, a first-of-its-kind system that intercepts rockets fired from short distances of up to 70 kilometers (50 miles) and has shot down dozens of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, including several projectiles fired over the past week. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, file)

  • People look at a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • People gather around a wreckage of the car in which was killed Ahmed Jabari, head of the Hamas military wing in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. The Israeli military said its assassination of the Hamas military commander marks the beginning of an operation against Gaza militants. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Israelis soldiers run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • Israeli soldiers and civilians run to a rocket shelter as a siren sounds signaling an attack coming from the nearby Gaza Strip in Neva settlement, near the Israel-Egypt border, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • Columns of smoke rise following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander. Hamas security officials say two Hamas training facilities were among the targets in the Wednesday afternoon bombings. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

  • Israeli security personnel take cover in Kiryat Malachi, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis on Thursday in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas’ top military commander. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • An Israeli soldier throws a blood-stained table from an apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, killing three people in Kiryat Malachi, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis on Thursday in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas’ top military commander. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • An Israeli soldier throws a blood-stained table from an apartment building hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, where three people were killed in Kiryat Malachi, southern Israel, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis on Thursday in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas’ top military commander. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

  • A rocket launched by Palestinians militants towards Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel,Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

  • Palestinians walk by a damaged building hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and rocket salvoes thudded into southern Israel, as residents on both sides of the frontier holed up at home in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

  • A Palestinian youth walks through a damaged apartment hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City ,Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and rocket salvoes thudded into southern Israel, as residents on both sides of the frontier holed up at home in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

  • Palestinians inspect a damaged apartment hit in an Israeli strike, in Gaza City, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and rocket salvoes thudded into southern Israel, as residents on both sides of the frontier holed up at home in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)