Targeted attack risks major escalation as Palestinian groups vow Baha Abu al-Atta’s killing ‘will not go unpunished’.
Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has said one of its commanders was killed in an Israeli strike on his home in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The group’s armed wing announced the death in a statement on Tuesday after Israel confirmed it had targeted Baha Abu al-Atta, 42, in a strike.
Islamic Jihad said al-Atta’s wife was also killed in the blast that ripped through the building in Gaza City’s Shejaiya district before dawn. At least two others were wounded, according to medics.
In a statement, Islamic Jihad said al-Atta was undergoing “a heroic act” when he was assassinated, without elaborating. and promised to take revenge.
“Our inevitable retaliation will rock the Zionist entity,” it said, referring to Israel, adding that it was on “maximum alert”.
In a separate statement, Hamas, the group that administers the Gaza Strip, said Israel “bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation” and promised that al-Atta’s death “will not go unpunished”.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, said the killing of al-Atta in his home marked “an extremely dangerous escalation”.
“Israel has not targeted leaders in this way for some time so this strike is seen here as one which brings significant risks.”
Shortly after the attack, a salvo of rockets was launched into Israel, witnesses said.
There was no immediate word of casualties or damage on the other side. Israeli police said they closed some roads on the edge of Gaza as a precaution. Schools were also closed, Fawcett said.
In a statement, the Israeli military said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had authorised the operation against al-Atta, blaming him for recent rocket, drone and sniper attacks against Israel, and attempted infiltrations into the country.
“Abu Al-Atta was responsible for most of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s activity in the Gaza Strip and was a ticking bomb,” the statement said, accusing Al-Atta of planning “imminent terror attacks through various means”.