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Israel-Gaza tension escalates after Israel's killing of Palestinian militant commander

(Xinhua)    07:37, November 13, 2019

ISRAEL-GAZA-CONFLICT

Israeli firefighters put out fire at a burning factory hit by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Nov. 12, 2019. Some 50 rockets were fired on Tuesday morning at central and southern Israel, injuring at least one person, in a Palestinian retaliation after Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza. (JINI via Xinhua)

JERUSALEM, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Some 190 rockets were fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after an Israeli airstrike killed a Palestinian militant leader, which escalated the violence between Israel and the militants in Gaza.

About half of the rockets fell on open areas and most of other rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket systems, the Israeli army said.

As the rocket attacks escalated as the Palestinian militants attempted to reach deep into Israel, including Tel Aviv, a coastal city in central Israel, the Israeli army launched a series of air and artillery attacks at Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said in a statement that the attacks targeted the Islamic Jihad sites, a Palestinian group that launched the rockets.

"Fighter jets and aircraft struck a number of Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip," the spokesman said, adding the sites included training compounds used by the Islamic Jihad's naval commando unit, a shaft of an offensive tunnel in northern Gaza, and a tunnel-digging site in central Gaza.

The escalation came after Israel killed Baha Abu al-Atta, a senior commander with the Islamic Jihad group, in a predawn attack on his home in the al-Shuja'eya neighborhood in eastern Gaza.

The airstrike also killed his wife, Asma Mohammed Abu Alata, 39, and injured at least three other people.

"We just targeted Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza," the Israeli army wrote on its Twitter account. "Abu al-Atta was directly responsible for hundreds of terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers."

Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement that runs Gaza, and the Islamic Jihad, vowed to avenge the killing of Abu al-Atta.

A joint statement by the Palestinian militants in Gaza said the Israeli attack signals that Israel is returning to its "assassination policy," referring to a string of deadly airstrikes targeting top militant commanders in Gaza.

The forces warned that Israel "crossed a red line" and would suffer the consequences.

Right after the killing, Israel went into a state of emergency. Schools and universities from south to center were shut down.

Israel's Home Front Command instructed its residents to cancel public events, such as concerts or weddings, with more than 100 participants.

In communities located up to 40 km from the Gaza Strip, the train service was suspended, while local residents were instructed to stay indoors.

Also on Tuesday morning, Israel was accused of launching a missile attack in Syrian capital Damascus that targeted the home of Akram Ajjouri, commander of the Palestinian Jihad movement.

Ajjouri was unharmed but his son and another person were killed in the attack, according to Syria's official news agency SANA.

In the wake of the violence, Egyptian officials launched efforts to restore calm by working with the United States and the European Union, local media reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long criticized by the residents of Israel's south for not ordering a tougher attack against Gaza in the wake of repeated rocket attacks, summoned a special meeting of his security cabinet.

At the end of the meeting, he said that Israel had no interest in escalation, but it might take time until the current operation is concluded.

Netanyahu defended the killing of Abu al-Atta as a "necessary" move by Israel.

"He was the main perpetrator of terror in the Gaza Strip," Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv, calling Abu al-Atta "a ticking bomb."

The Israeli leader added that Israel was ready to respond in case the Islamic Jihad will continue the rocket attacks on Israel.


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(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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