Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its top commanders, Taysir al-Jabari, was killed in an Israeli raid. The group said he was a commander in Liwa al-Quds, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, and a member of its military council.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least nine people were killed, including a five-year-old girl, and 55 others were wounded.
A CNN producer in Gaza watched medics remove two bodies from a building called the Palestine Tower that was hit in one of the strikes.
An Israeli army statement said the military operation – dubbed “Breaking Dawn” – targeted Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza. The Israeli military said a “special status” had been declared in areas around Gaza, in anticipation of possible rocket launches or other retaliatory attacks.
Islamic Jihad vowed to respond. “All options are open by all means available to the Palestinian resistance, whether in Gaza or outside it,” spokesman Daoud Shehab told Al-Jazeera. “The battlefield is open… the resistance will respond with full force. We won’t say how, but this is inevitable.”
Hamas, which controls Gaza, condemned the Israeli operation. Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “The Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”
The strikes come after Israeli forces arrested a prominent leader of Islamic Jihad, Bassam al-Saadi, during a Monday night raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
During that operation, a 17-year-old Palestinian linked to Islamic Jihad was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that Israeli forces shot him in the head.
Israel said al-Saadi was one of two wanted suspects arrested in that raid. Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, said it was massing its forces throughout the Palestinian territories in response.
Recent months have witnessed repeated Israeli operations in and around Jenin, after several deadly attacks inside Israel carried out by Palestinian militants from the area. Thirty Palestinians have been killed in raids since the beginning of the year, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
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