Israel's military killed a commander of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire and fears of a severe escalation in violence.
Baha Abu Al-Ata, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), was killed along with his wife, when a missile hit their home, the group said.
"He was responsible for many terrorist attacks and the firing of rockets at Israel in recent months and had meant to carry out imminent attacks", Netanyahu's office tweeted.
"We were waiting for.when he was not surrounded by human shields", Conricus said.
Minutes after the Iranian-backed group confirmed the death of the commander, Bahaa Abu el-Atta, at dawn, barrages of rockets could be heard fired toward southern Israel from Gaza. The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floor of a house in the Shejaeya neighborhood, in the eastern part of Gaza City.
The Palestinian ministry of health said that the couple's siblings Salim, Mohammed Layan and Fatima, along with their neighbour Hanan Hellis, were wounded in the same air strike and are in a stable condition.
The Islamic Jihad said Abu el-Atta, 42, was undergoing "a heroic act" when he was assassinated. It did not elaborate, but vowed revenge.
The precision targeted attack was carried out to remove an immediate threat, and a hit was detected.
Alerts went off as far north as Tel Aviv as terrorists expressed their rage at the the loss of the terror chief. Israeli authorities reported at least two injuries in Israel from the rockets, including an 8-year-old girl who is in critical condition after losing consciousness while running to a bomb shelter. Israeli police said they closed some roads on the edge of Gaza as a precaution.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and is considered a rival of the PIJ, condemned Al-Ata's killing, vowing it "will not pass without punishment". "There was no other choice, " Conricus said.
Since the 2014 war, Israel has mostly refrained from targeted assassinations of senior Gaza militants, but did so one time in May, Israeli airplanes killed a Hamas commander and financial broker in a vehicle traveling in Gaza City during a three-day exchange of fire.