Israel struck the head of Hamas' military wing in an airstrike Wednesday, after militants from Gaza fired more than 110 rockets into southern Israel since Saturday. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told the BBC that Israel would be targeting "close to 20" sites in Gaza, in a limited operation aimed at destroyed rocket-firing capabilities.
"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 IDF said on its blog. "This was a surgical operation in cooperation with the Israeli Security Agency, that was implemented on the basis of concrete intelligence and using advanced capabilities." According to Israeli Channel 2 military correspondent Ronnie Daniel, the preemptive strikes also targeted Fajr missile silos, with a 70-kilometer range that could hit Tel Aviv.
The strike killed Hamas' military chief Ahmed al-Jabari, whom the IDF identified as responsible for the imprisonment of recently released IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The IDF blog also stated that it is "widely believed" that al-Jabari "played the leading role in Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in June 2007.
Although some news services reported that the operation was of "limited" scope, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said that the strike was "part of our goal, to land serious blows on Hamas and other organizations. Jabari is the first target… We've only just started, and this isn't the end of it. All of the options are open, and we will persist in our determination to continue to hit all of the [terror] organizations further down the line."
Calling the operation "Pillar of Defense," Mordechai also stated that the IDF was preparing for a potential ground operation. A call-up of reservists followed the announcement despite Yoav's statement that the IDF did not want a "second Cast Lead."
Hamas' Alqassam Brigades responded to the IDF strike on its Twitter account, saying that the "Occupation opned (sic) hell gates on itself." The terrorist group further said that Israel would "pay a high price" for its "dangerous crime" and "declaration of war."