Jerusalem: In a strong retaliation to
rocket fire on its fifth largest city Ashkelon, Israeli warplanes pounded several Hamas bases, killing one of the group`s top commanders and injuring at least eight others.
In the heaviest bombardment in the Gaza Strip since ceasefire was declared on January 18, 2009, following three weeks of Israeli offensive, Hamas military wing`s senior field
commander Issa al-Batran was killed in overnight raids near the Magazhi refugee camp, the Palestinian sources said.
40-year-old Issa, thought to have been involved in
manufacturing rockets, was the target of a number of Israeli
assassination attempts, the most recent of which resulted in
the death of his wife and five children in January.
In a statement, the military wing of Hamas vowed to
avenge the death of Issa, whom it identified as a senior field
commander. "These new Zionist crimes will not pass without
answer," the statement said.
Israeli fighter jets targeted the Tel al-Hawa
neighbourhood and Ansar security compound in western Gaza,
which served as a training site for Hamas commanders and was
used as headquarters for high-rank Palestinian Authority
officials like Yasser Arafat in the past.
Other targets included sites in Dir al-Balah and
Rafiah area of southern Gaza.
The Israeli operation was in retaliation to the rocket
attack on Ashkelon. The Grad-type rocket hit an open area near
the coastal resort yesterday, causing some damage but no
The National Resistance Committee, a group which
supports the Islamist Hamas government in Gaza, claimed
responsibility for the rocket attack, Israel Radio reported.
The Israel Defence Forces confirmed the air-strikes,
which the army said targeted a Hamas-linked site in the
northern Gaza Strip, a weapons-manufacturing warehouse in the
central Gaza Strip and a weapons-smuggling tunnel in the
southern Gaza Strip.