By Jim Kouri
Combat between Israel and Gaza-based terrorist groups flared up late Wednesday following the killing of Ahmed al-Jaabari, the highest-ranking Hamas leader killed by the Israelis since early 2009, said an Israeli police source on Wednesday.
According to the source, Israel’s air force continued pummeling Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after killing 10 people, including al-Jaabari.
The attacks were launched amid the large-scale Israeli military Operation Pillar of Defense against Gaza, which began Wednesday afternoon and was officially aimed at Hamas’ top leadership and its infrastructure in Gaza, including its stocks of rockets, training camps, rocket-launching sites and police stations, said the Israeli source.
While the Palestinian National Authority is the recognized governing body for the Palestinian people, the PNA only controls the West Bank. Hamas is the de factor government of Gaza and several other Islamic terrorist groups are active there including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and members of the Salafists.
Israel’s military spokesperson said Wednesday night that they’ve “significantly damaged the rocket launching capabilities” of Hamas.
The intense combat did not only occur on land. Israel’s navy also targeted several Hamas sites along the shoreline of the Gaza Strip, while a large number of Israel’s IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) have amassed along the border threatening a large-scale ground invasion, the INP source told the Law Enforcement Examiner.
Hamas leaders are quoted as saying that the killing of its commander, al-Jaabari, was nothing short of “a declaration of war” by the Israeli government.
Israel “committed a dangerous crime and broke all redlines,” said Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas. “The Israeli occupation (sic) will regret and pay a high price … The occupation has opened [the] doors of hell against itself.”
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi decided Wednesday to recall his ambassador to Israel in protest against the Jewish country’s military operation in Gaza, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.
Meanwhile, Morsi also asked the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to summon the Israeli ambassador in Cairo. Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr condemned Israeli air strikes on Gaza, calling for an “immediate halt” of such attacks.
The Obama administration strongly condemned Hamas, saying “We support Israel’s right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties,” according to Mark Toner, deputy U.S. State Department spokesman.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he spoke separately with Obama and “voiced deep appreciation for (his) support of Israel’s right to defend itself.”