As-it-happened: Israel strikes Gaza

Key points

  • The military leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, has been assassinated in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.
  • Mr Jabari is the most senior Hamas official to be killed since Israel's military offensive on the city four years ago.
  • Israel says the killing marks the start of a broader operation in Gaza. Hamas said Israel "had opened the gates of hell".
  • All times GMT

Live text

Reporting:

  • Aidan Lewis 
  • Matthew Davis 

Last updated 20 March 2013

STANDARD 1530

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of events in Gaza, where the leader of Hamas's military wing has been killed in an Israeli airstrike. Israel says the killing of Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari marks the beginning of a broader operation against militant groups in Gaza - Operation Pillar of Defence. Hamas said the air strike had "opened the gates of hell". Stay with us for the latest updates in text, pictures and video. We will also be posting a selection of comments from Twitter and emails sent to the BBC News website.

STANDARD 1532

A little earlier, Lt Col Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli army gave a briefing on events in Gaza, saying that after a few days of on going rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, the IDF chief of staff had authorised an operation against terror targets in the Gaza strip. The operation against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations has two goals, to protect Israeli civilians and target the terror capability of these organizations, Leibovich said. At the moment it is the beginning of a limited operation.

STANDARD 1535

The Islamic Jihad group issues a statement saying Israel has called for war in the assassinating Ahmed Al-Jabari. Islamic Jihad pledged to retaliate on the same scale.

STANDARD 1538

Palestinian firefighters extinguish flames from the car of Ahmaed Jabari, head of the military wing of the Hamas movement, after the Israeli air strik in Gaza City.

Palestinian firefighters extinguish fire from the car of Ahmaed Jaabari, head of the military wing of the Hamas movement

STANDARD 1540

Palestinian witnesses say Israeli airstrikes have hit a series of targets across Gaza City, shortly after the assassination of the top Hamas commander.

STANDARD

Jon Donnison, BBC News

in Gaza City, says: "Across Gaza there's anger. There's the sound of gunfire. The news is being broadcast from mosques. There are chaotic scenes at the city's Shifa hospital. Ahmed Jabari was one of Hamas's most senior figures. He was 46 years old and the head of the movement's military wing the al Qassam brigades. He was hit by an airstrike as he travelled in a car through the centre of Gaza City. Israel has confirmed it targeted Mr Jabari in respone to Palestinian rocket fire in recent weeks. Israel will say Hamas had it coming. Palestinians will see it a major provocation. The fears here are it could provoke another war.

STANDARD 1544

An Israel Defence Forces blog sets out Israel's reasoning behind the operations in Gaza. "The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure," the blog says.

STANDARD 1546

Hamas spokesman Taher Anunu tells BBC Arabic: "This was a heinous crime that will have repercussions. The Palestinian government will call for the trial of those responsible for the crime, and for hitting a civilian area, but the Palestinian factions have the right to respond in a way they see fit."

STANDARD

Wyre Davies, BBC Middle East correspondent

in Jerusalem, says: "Over the years Israel has killed several senior Hamas figures in similar operations, including the movement's founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2004. Calling the targeted killing of Jabari a clear message to Hamas, Israel says its intention is for the violence in and around the Gaza Strip to end. But must be anticipating, in the short term at least, a violent and angry response from the militant organizations. Israel says the assassination of such a senior Hamas figure is the start of a "limited operation" in Gaza. This had, to some extent been expected, after militants fired hundreds of rockets from Gaza at the weekend. Israel responded then with tank fire, killing five Palestinian civilians but on a visit to the border with Gaza, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau promised a much more stern, tougher response."

STANDARD 1554

The Israel Defence Forces issues a statement saying: "The IDF has targeted a significant number of long-range rocket sites owned by Hamas. The aim of targeting these sites is to hamper their rocket launching weapons build-up capabilities."