Ahmed Said Khalil al-Jabari, head of the military wing of Hamas, has been killed during a series of Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
He and another senior Hamas official died when the car they were travelling in was hit in Gaza City.
Israeli Defence Force (IDF) spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told BBC News “close to 20” sites in Gaza had been targeted in a “limited” operation, with the strikes aiming to destroy rocket-firing capabilities.
“The operation against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organisations has two goals: to protect Israeli civilians and target the terror capability of these organisations,” she added.
Militants in Gaza have fired more than 110 rockets towards southern Israel since Saturday, when four soldiers were wounded in an anti-tank missile attack on an Israeli army jeep. Before Wednesday’s operation, six Palestinians had been killed in the ensuing Israeli military strikes on the Gaza Strip in response.
Mr Jabari, who was 46, is the most senior Hamas official to be killed in the Gaza Strip since the major Israeli offensive four years ago.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service said he had been responsible for “all terrorist activities against Israel from Gaza” in the last decade.
“Jabari was responsible for financing and directing military operations and attacks against Israel. His elimination today is a message to Hamas officials in Gaza that if they continue promoting terrorism against Israel, they will be hurt.”
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