200 rockets launched at Israel after Baha Abu al-Ata, commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was assassinated.
200 rockets launched at Israel after Baha Abu al-Ata, commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, was assassinated.

200 rockets launched from Gaza at Israel since Tuesday morning after the IDF and Shin Bet’s assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Ata was said to be responsible for many attacks on Israel, he was killed along with his wife in their home. The strikes did not cause any deaths or serious injuries.

46 Israelis were treated for minor injuries said Magen David Adom, Gaza’s Health Ministry. The Iron Dome defence system obstructed 90 per cent of the day’s rockets. The rockets landed as far north as Tel Aviv causing school in the south and north to be closed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel “isn’t interested in an escalation, but we will do everything it takes to defend ourselves, and that may take time” in a morning press conference.

Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz who is trying to put together a coalition government backed the attacks. the former chief of staff said on Twitter, “The political echelon and the IDF made the right decision tonight for the safety of the citizens of Israel and the people of the South”.

Overnight, a failed attempt was carried out to assassinate the Akram Al-Ajouri, another Islamic Jihad top officer in Damascus. Reports said Akram’s son was killed in the attack and 10 other people were wounded in the attempt.

Before 9 P.M, Abu Hamza, spokesperson for Islamic Jihad’s military wing, said that the “coming hours will mark victory for the Palestinian people. Israel began this campaign, but it will be notified when it ends. Israel is the one bearing responsibility for the stupid decision to assassin one of the most senior commanders of the resistance.”

"Israel is not interested in escalation, but we shall do everything necessary in order to defend ourselves," he said in a televised statement from defence headquarters.

"I'm telling you in advance, it could take time." Nadav Argaman, head of domestic security agency Shin Bet which took part in the targeted strike, said the operation "allowed us to reach the level of the bed in which he slept, the small room in which he lived, in which he hid." Damage from a blast could be seen at Ata's home in the Shejayia district of eastern Gaza City.

Mosque loudspeakers rang out with news of Ata's death early Tuesday and crowds joined his funeral procession through the streets of the city, occasionally firing guns into the air.

A joint statement by Gaza's militant groups said Israel had crossed "all red lines" and would face consequences.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said "today's crime and the Israeli bombardment in Gaza are added to the Israeli criminal record that is intended to liquidate the Palestinian cause by attacking the Palestinian people, the resistance and high-ranking resistance officers".

Israel said Ata was behind rocket fire towards a music festival in the Israeli city of Sderot in August as well as further rocket attacks at the start of November.

It has also accused him of being behind sniper fire and drone launchings.

Ata "is responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip," the army said, describing him as a "ticking bomb".

It alleged he was "promoting preparations to commit immediate terror attacks in various ways towards Israeli civilians and (Israeli) troops during the recent few days".

The strikes and rocket fire raised the possibility of a severe escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Three wars have been fought between them since 2008 and Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Islamic Jihad is the second most-powerful militant group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas.

The flare-up comes at a sensitive time politically for Israel.

A September 17 general election ended in a deadlock and a new government is yet to be formed. It was the second election since April, when polls also ended inconclusively.

With inputs from PTI.

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