JERUSALEM — Israel Defense Forces in Operation Cloud Pillar killed the head of Hamas's military wing, sources confirmed Wednesday to GlobalPost's correspondent in Israel, Noga Tarnopolsky.
"In the past hour, the IDF targeted Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas's military wing, in the Gaza Strip," a military source said.
"Jabari was a senior Hamas operative who served in the upper echelon of the Hamas' command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the State of Israel in the past number of years."
The death of Jabari, who ran the Ezzidine Al-Qassam Brigades, is a serious blow to Hamas' chain of command.
More from GlobalPost: (LIVE BLOG) Ahmed Jabari, Hamas military chief of staff, killed in Israeli strike
Here's a video of the ariel attack, released by IDF:
The IDF website said Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz had “approved an expansive strike against terrorist organizations in Gaza.”
“As a part of the program, a short while ago, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) struck Ahmed Jabari and other senior officers of Hamas' Military Wing, who were involved in planning and implementing dozens of attacks, including the kidnapping of SFC [Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit,” it said.
In addition to Jabari, his son, the commander of Hama's Khan Yunis unit, Raed Attar, and as many as 7 others were killed Wednesday.
High-ranking Hamas member Ismail al-Ashkar told YnetNews, "The resistance's options are now open and they include suicide attacks and quality attacks in Israel cities." On Israel Radio, Hamas swore retaliation, saying "Tel Aviv will be on fire tonight."
The Palestine Liberation Organization via Dr. Saeb Erekat, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Parliament, condemned the attack in a statement.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this new Israeli assassination which aims to initiate a bloody escalation," it said. "We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the consequences that this new act of aggression would bring to the region.”
“This exposes that Israel has an agenda for war but not for peace.”
Dr. Saeb Erekat is Switzerland with President Mahmoud Abbas in an official visit.
Egypt's Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood criticized the assassination. The Justice Party, calling israel a "Zionist occupier" and "racist state," said in a statement the attacks were linked to Israel's upcoming January 22 election.
"In the framework of elections that Israel is witnessing is a recent military escalation against occupied Gaza and the occupied Golan Heights," it said.
A separate statement by the Muslim Brotherhood read, "The killing of tens of our innocent Palestinian brothers is part of a link in a chain of oppression and Judaization that seeks to impose itself on the ground, and that will never materialize with God's will."
Earlier Wednesday, Vice Premier and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon was quoted by the Associated Press, saying he supported Israel's return to a policy of assassination.
‘‘Clearly over these past 13 years there has been an ongoing war, but there have also been extended periods of calm,’’ Yaalon told Army Radio on Monday, according to the AP.
‘‘When I was chief of staff, the targeted killings against Hamas led to extended periods of quiet.’’
Since Israel withdrew its military forces from Gaza in 2007, Hamas has controlled the territory. During a 3-week conflict in 2008-2009, about 1,400 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis were killed.
More recently, 6 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes on the Gaza Strip in response to more than 110 rockets fired at Israel.