Israeli Forces Kill Hamas Leader In Gaza Attack

Israel launched a new wave of air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. The commander of Hamas' military wing was among the first casualties.

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In the Gaza Strip today, Israeli forces killed the military chief of Hamas. It was just the beginning of what Israel called a major military operation against Gaza's ruling party. The strikes were in retaliation for the launching of more than 100 rockets at Israel in recent days. Now southern Israel is bracing for more, as NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Jerusalem.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: An Israeli missile struck Ahmed al-Jabari's car on the road in Gaza. Israel's military followed up with air raids on Hamas rocket launch sites in order to prevent retaliatory strikes. It deployed missile defense systems to protect Israeli communities, and it said it was ready to launch a ground attack into Gaza if necessary. In a televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would no longer tolerate Hamas' rocket attacks.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: (Foreign language spoken)

KUHN: We have conveyed a clear message to Hamas and other terrorist organizations, he said. If it is necessary, the Israeli Defense Force is prepared to further expand the operation. We will continue to do everything to protect our citizens.

Israeli politicians had been discussing resuming the policy of assassinating Hamas leaders in order to stop attacks on Israel. Jabari was the highest-level Hamas official to be killed since 2009. Israel said he had been in charge of attacks on Israeli civilians for the past decade. Speaking by phone from Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel would bear the responsibility for the retribution that is sure to come.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI: (Through Translator) The resistance will succeed in stopping this aggression and make Israel pay for this great crime. This aggression has electoral aims. It's an Israeli attempt to use Palestinian blood to serve Netanyahu's electoral bid.

KUHN: In Cairo, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi recalled his country's ambassador to Israel. He called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and suggested an emergency meeting of the Arab League. Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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