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

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    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.


    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.


    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.


    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

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

    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.


    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.


    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."

    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."


    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."


    Meanwhile, more detail on that Hamas statement from earlier, suggesting that Israel had "opened the doors of hell". It further says: "The Israeli occupation has committed a dangerous crime and exceeded all red lines. This is considered to be a war and they will pay a high price."

    Marti Silver,

    tweets: really wish the news would report the ACTUAL story that happened, Israel has a right to defend itself and protect it's future #PEACE4ISRAEL


    tweets: Escalation in violence just before the UN is set to vote on weather Palestine is to become a non member state hmmm....


    Palestinian youths look inside a building where the body of Ahmed Jabari was taken in Gaza City.

    Palestinian youths look inside a building where the body of Ahmaed Jaabari was taken after he was killed

    Israel has targeted "close to 20" sites in Gaza according to Israel Defence Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich. She told BBC World News the strikes were aimed at destroying rocket firing capabilities.


    For those seeking more background to this story, read the BBC News website's profile of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

    Israel Defence Forces

    tweets: All options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza.


    To hear more reaction from Gaza and Israel to today's military operations, you can tune in to World Have Your Say on BBC World Service radio at 1800 GMT.

    Jonathan Marcus BBC Defence correspondent

    says: "On the military front though Hamas has had problems; maintaining calm is hardly an advert for practicing the armed struggle against Israel and it has increasingly found itself 'out-bid' by more extreme Islamist groups who launched rockets into Israel."


    Smoke rises over Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. Israel said earlier it had targeted some 20 sites across the strip.

    Smoke rises over Khan Yunis
    Yair, in Israel

    emails: After Hamas launched hundreds of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians in the last two weeks our government has finally decided to respond. Where were all the journalists when Israeli civilians were under attack? I don't see any coverage of that.


    An Israeli military spokesman says he foresees "protracted days of fighting" with Gaza, according to Reuters news agency.


    Here is a selection of the latest pictures from Gaza.

    Palestinian men react as security forces wheel into a hospital the body of Ahmaed Jabari
    Jon Donnison BBC News, Gaza

    tweets: More dead bodies being brought into #Gaza city's Shifa hospital morgue where i've just been.

    Embassy of Israel in the US,

    tweets: After +120 rockets this wk & +2,500 launched deliberately at #Israeli civilians since 2009, #IDF begins operation against #Gaza terror orgs.

    Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor

    says: "The assassination of the head of the Hamas armed wing Ahmed al-Jabari is a deliberate escalation by Israel. The inherent risk of a new war is the reason why its chief military spokesman has warned Israelis to brace themselves. It is hard to imagine Hamas not hitting back."


    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was meeting with his senior Security Cabinet after sundown on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.


    Another picture of columns of smoke rising after Israeli air strikes, this time over Gaza City.

    Gaza City
    Jerusalem Post reporter, Ben Hartman,

    tweets: Channel 1 says #IDF starting to distribute reservist call up orders (tzav 8) #Israel #Jpost #Gaza

    Lear, in Mongolia,

    emails: If you live by the sword you have to expect to die by the sword. We understand the frustration of the Gaza-based Palestinians, but their leaders have to control their people and not turn a blind eye to their rocket launches into Israel. We doubt Israel would attack senior Hamas leaders without provocation and at some point they have to draw the line to try and prevent further rocket launches into their country.

    Rowan ElHossary,

    tweets: May God be with people in Gaza/Syria. They're the ones paying the price of silence of all Arab countries.

    Jeremy Bowen BBC Middle East editor

    says: "Israel says it killed the Hamas military leader because he had a lot of blood on his hands - and as an answer to Palestinian rocket fire. But there will be questions about the timing of Israel's action. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called an election in January. In the past, military strikes have been used to send messages about the toughness of Israeli leaders."

    Jon Donnison BBC News, Gaza

    tweets: Another large explosion heard north of #Gaza City just now.


    BBC Monitoring says the Beirut-based and Palestinian Islamic Jihad-affiliated Filastin al-Yawm TV has been carrying a series of "urgent" screen captions on the killing of Ahmed Jabari. One caption said the "Al-Quds Brigades has announced "a state of high alert among its ranks and issues orders to respond to the Zionist aggression."

    Sky's Tom Rayner,

    tweets: Red Crescent Doctor in Gaza says at least 9 dead and 20 injured, but expects numbers to rise significantly due to extent of attacks.

    Shaimaa Khalil BBC News

    tweets: In a statement Muslim Brotherhood's political wing Freedom and Justice party voiced their backing of the "Palestinian resistance"

    Shaimaa Khalil BBC News

    adds on Twitter: Muslim Brotherhood are #Hamas's big allies in the region now.This will hit hard in #Cairo esp. after #Egypt's efforts to broker a ceasefire


    Egypt's foreign ministry condemns Israeli strikes on Gaza and calls for them to stop "immediately".


    The British Foreign Office tweets: We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one's interests


    From BBC Monitoring: Israeli state radio has reported that schools will not open in Ashkelon tomorrow, while the situation in other areas will be evaluated this evening. It says the Israeli army's Home Front Command is getting ready for retaliation from Palestinian groups.

    1730: Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

    Three things have prompted this Israeli operation now. First, the recent upsurge of Palestinian rocket attacks and the perceived need to restore some element of deterrence. Second, the battle being waged between Israel and Palestinian groups in and around the border fence separating Gaza from Israel. Third, Israeli analysts believe that while much of the rocket-fire in the past has come from more radical groups than Hamas, much recent activity has been launched by Hamas itself in an effort not to lose the mantle of leading the popular resistance against Israel.


    Here's a picture from the archive of Mr Jabari escorting Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in October 2011, before his release after five years as a captive of Hamas.

    Ahmed al-Jabari (right) and Gilad Shalit, 18 October 2011
    Zain ul Abideen in Pakistan

    emails: The airstrikes conducted by Israel are destabilising the entire region, from Palestine to Pakistan. There is a need for international urgency to restrain Israel.

    Sarah in Beersheba, Israel

    emails: We have to live every day worried that a rocket might come over and either ruin our day or our lives altogether. We are the good guys. We are the ones trying for peace. We need the media to stop portraying terrorists as victims and start reporting the whole truth.

    1744: Kevin Connolly BBC Middle East correspondent

    Egypt's reaction to events in Gaza will be followed closely because it's the first time violence has reached this pitch of intensity since the events of the Arab Spring brought to power in Cairo a president drawn from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, the same organisation in which Hamas has its roots.


    Here's a full quote from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: "The occupying state has to understand that the changes the Arab region, and especially Egypt, have witnessed will not permit that the Palestinian people be put under the hold of the Israeli offence in the same way as the past."


    UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon calls on both sides to "do everything to avoid further escalation" and to "respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times".


    Israeli President Simon Peres says Hamas has to make a choice: "The message is clear, no twilight. Make up your mind. You want peace there will be peace. If you want to kill you will be answered."

    Marrakech Arbuckle in Doha, Qatar

    tweets: Is there any question that Netanyahu is literally creating a conflict in Gaza to win re-election in about two months? Barack Obama: Wake up.

    Avi Kenig in Kiryat Motzkin, Israel

    emails: Sadly another military operation in Gaza, even if limited at this point, has been a long time coming. With so many independent Islamic militia groups in Gaza, any attempt at an all-inclusive truce is doomed from the start.

    1813: Jonathan Marcus BBC Diplomatic Correspondent

    Israel's partial call up of reserve units, though probably precautionary, highlights the dangers of a major escalation. Hamas is bound to respond to the initial Israeli attacks and there is a real danger that while neither side may want a full-scale ground war that is the way things could develop. Mr Netanyahu was already the likely winner of the Israeli general election due next January. He didn't need a war to bolster his chances. But as this crisis goes on so the domestic political dimensions will play out for both sides. Mr Netanyahu has to emerge with Israel's deterrence capabilities strengthened. Equally Hamas has to be seen to be taking the struggle to Israel. It cannot allow itself to be out-bid by more radical Palestinian forces.

    1818: Paul Danahar BBC Middle East bureau chief

    My sources tell me the IDF (Israeli military) did target Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar's house though unlikely he was there.

    The BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem

    tweets: ‏The response begins. Unconfirmed reports from the southern Israeli town of Beer Sheeba that rockets are being fired from Gaza.


    There's clearly some confusion about whether the house of Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar was targeted during the Israeli strikes. The BBC's Jon Donnison in Gaza says sources there are telling him the house was NOT targeted, despite rumours to the contrary.


    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for an urgent meeting of the Arab League.


    Further reaction from Mahmoud Abbas, courtesy of the official Wafa news agency: "Abbas warned of the seriousness of the Israeli escalation and demanded an immediate end to the aggression."


    The Jerusalem Post website reports Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has declared a "special situation" covering all Israeli cities within a 40-km (25-mile) radius of the Gaza Strip.


    The Israeli military tweets: Initial reports indicate that the Iron Dome has intercepted a number of rockets above a major Israeli city.


    A further tweet from Israel's military: Israeli Navy has struck terror sites in the #Gaza Strip.


    The IDF says the number of rockets it has so far intercepted stands at 13.


    There's a backgrounder on how Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system works on the BBC website here. And you can also read a piece from earlier this year on how the dome had been working.

    Helena Hägglund in Cairo, Egypt

    tweets: March in Cairo for Gaza now chanting "you coward Arab states" and "the Palestinian blood is our blood".


    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government is "prepared to expand" the operation in Gaza.

    Dan Williams, Reuters correspondent in Jerusalem

    tweets: Qatar, whose Emir was hosted by Hamas in Gaza last month, says Israel's killing of Jabari "should not pass without punishment".


    There are several reports from Israeli media that rockets have been fired at the Israeli city of Dimona for the first time.

    Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman

    tweets: We recommend that no Hamas terrorists, low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.


    A stinging critique of Israel's government from Uri Avnery, founder of Israeli peace group Gush Shalom: "Netanyahu and Barak have decided to deliberately violate a cease-fire which had just been stabilised. At the price of great and ongoing suffering on both sides of the border, the government's aim has been accomplished: social issues will be removed from the public agenda and the election campaign."


    Egypt is recalling its ambassador to Israel, according to Egyptian state TV.


    The Israel military has tweeted a link to the following picture of Ahmed Jabari, with the word "ELIMINATED" stamped across the bottom:

    IDF picture of Ahmed Jabari

    Egypt is calling for an emergency UN Security Council meeting over Israel's strikes in Gaza, Egyptian state TV reports.

    Iyad El-Baghdadi

    tweets: Withdrawing the ambassador is meaningless. #Egypt needs to open the border and allow medical & food supplies into #Gaza now. Now.

    Huwaida Arraf

    tweets: Adie (HR activist) in Gaza: "Huge explosions landing all around us in Gaza City now as I write, some entire families have been injured"


    There are reports that the Arab League is preparing a meeting - as requested by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters is reporting that it could be held on Thursday or Saturday.

    Adam Blenford BBC News, Washington

    tweets: Not too much curiosity from the US media pack about the Middle East, then? No Israel/Gaza questions to Obama


    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad "calls on the international community to assume its responsibilities and to mobilise immediately to stop this (Israeli) escalation".

    Jon Williams BBC Foreign Editor

    tweets: 11 month old son of BBC colleague killed in #Gaza. Sister-in-law killed, brother critically injured. Civilians always casualties of conflict.


    The Palestinian Al-Quds TV channel is carrying a statement from the head of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyah. "We we do not fear the fate of our people and resistance in the face of the monstrous Israeli onslaught," he said.


    Ahmed Jabari, the shadowy commander of Hamas's militant wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was one of Israel's most wanted men, and a hero to Hamas, as this BBC News website profile explains.


    According to BBC Monitoring, the Palestinian Al-Quds TV channel is carrying statements from the head of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyah. He said: "We we do not fear the fate of our people and resistance in the face of the monstrous Israeli onslaught." He has also called on Egyptians "to give expression to the spirit of the revolution in order to rein in this barbaric attack".


    The Israeli PM was pictured arriving for an earlier news conference, where he said the military was prepared to broaden its operation against Hamas targets in Gaza.

    Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for a press briefing
    2028: Wyre Davies BBC Middle East correspondent

    says: "What Israel initially described as a 'limited operation' already looks a lot more extensive. Not only has it acknowledged what it called the 'elimination' of Hamas' military leader, Ahmed Jabari, but in a forthright statement, Israel warned all Hamas operatives, whether low-level or senior, not to show their faces above ground in the coming days."


    Israel's ambassador in Cairo has left Egypt, along with embassy staff, after Egypt withdrew its ambassador in Tel Aviv - Reuters reports.

    Julia in Tel Aviv, Israel

    emails: Displays of Israel's disproportionate use of power and force are ubiquitous, from West Bank checkpoints to Gaza wars. But I know Israelis are far too reasonable to be applying might without a deeper motive. I fear that this is, as per usual here, motivated by Netanyahu politics.


    The Israeli military releases what it says is footage of Ahmed Jabari's car seconds before the Hamas military chief was hit by an air strike.

    IDF picture

    A second Israeli military picture apparently shows Ahmed Jabari's vehicle as the air strike hit.

    IDF image
    Carol from Israel

    tweets: Each rocket that Hamas launches is personal as they are aimed at my friends and my friends families

    Walaa Al Ghussein

    tweets: More explosions in the North #Gaza, I don't feel good to leave the house.

    Reuters' Dan Williams

    tweets: The Israeli ambassador usually leaves Cairo on Thursdays for weekends at home. This departure, with his staff, smacks of a low-key recall.


    Reuters quotes an Israeli diplomat as saying that Israel's ambassador to Egypt has not been recalled (see 2033), embassy functioning as normal.


    Nine people are known to have been killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian envoy to the UN says, according to AFP.


    An Israeli boy prepares to sleep in a bomb shelter in the southern town of Netivot.


    Arab foreign ministers will meet on Saturday at the Cairo-based Arab League to discuss the Israeli operation against Gaza, the deputy Arab League chief is quoted by Reuters as saying.

    Jon Donnison BBC News, Gaza

    tweets: Another explosion just heard from where I am in #Gaza City.

    Avital Leibovich, IDF spokesperson

    tweets: No school tomorrow for kids in the range of 40kms from #Gaza.


    Israeli public radio station Voice of Israel Network B is reporting that citizens within seven kilometres of the Gaza Strip have been asked not to report to work tomorrow. Shopping centres will not be open to the public either. All public events within 40 km from the Gaza Strip have also been cancelled. (via BBC Monitoring)


    The US backs Israel's right to self-defence, but "we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties", the State Department says in a statement.

    Nicholas Kristof, New York Times

    tweets: Israeli attacks on Gaza risk a wider war, undermining Israeli security #PillarofFoolishness


    Israel's security cabinet has authorised the military to mobilise more reserve forces "according to need".

    Jake in Israel

    emails: I moved to Israel at the age of 21. I was born and raised in England. I was in the IDF for four years. I was very much involved in Operation Cast Lead. Believe me when I say that I don't want war. Believe me when I say that there are Palestinians suffering. Believe me when I say that we do our best not to hurt civilians. Believe me when I say that we are at the end of our tethers and they leave us with no other choice.


    Ghazi Hamad, Hamas's deputy foreign minister, tells the BBC World Service that "it's crazy right now in Gaza - in the north in the south and in the middle. They've targeted different places here including the buildings of the government, the security forces and cars in the crowded streets."


    That concludes the BBC's live coverage for this evening after an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed Ahmed Jabari, the military leader of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas. The Israeli prime minister has warned that he's prepared to expand operations against Palestinian militants in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel. Meanwhile the armed wing of Hamas said the air strike had "opened the gates of hell". Palestinian militants have retaliated by launching dozens of rockets into southern Israel and a BBC correspondent in Gaza says there are now fears now of a major escalation of violence. You can continue to follow the story on the BBC news website.


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