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Israel kills Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant in Gaza

  File photo showing Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata at a rally in Gaza City (October 21, 2016)

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad has promised to the death of Baha Abu al-Ata

An Israeli airstrike has killed an elderly commander of the militant group of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Baha Abu al-Ata died with his wife when a missile hit their home, the group said. Four of their children and a neighbor were reportedly injured.

The Israeli Prime Minister said that Abu al-Ata was a "ticking bomb" planning to carry out attacks on the country.

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50 rockets have been fired on Israel from Gaza since the assassination, which PIJ has promised to avenge.

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Media texts See a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip landed on a highway in Israel

Seventeen Israelis have been easily injured in rocket attacks in the south, according to Barzilai Medical Center in the city of Ashkelon.

Doctors said an eight-year-old girl was also in a serious condition after collapsing when her family rushed to a bomb shelter when an air raid siren sounded in Holon, south of Tel Aviv.

About the same time as the attack on Abu al-Ata, two people were killed and ten injured in an Israeli air attack at the home of another Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria's state news agency Sana said.

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Syrian media said another Israeli air attack marked the home of a PIJ leader in Damascus

Sana quoted a military source as saying that the PIJ leader, Akram al-Ajouri, was not injured, but that his son was among the dead. The Israeli military did not comment.

PIJ, supported by Iran, has its headquarters in Damascus and is one of the strongest militant groups in Gaza.

What happened in Gaza?

An Israeli war plane fired a missile at a residential building in eastern Shejaiya, Gaza, before dawn on Tuesday, causing an explosion that could be heard from miles away. The missile hit the third floor and killed Abu al-Ata and his wife.

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The Israeli military said it conducted a "surgical strike" at Baha Abu al-Ata's home

A statement from PIJ confirming Abu al-Ata's death said that he was its commander in the northern region of Gaza and that he was carrying out "a heroic jihadist act".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Abu al-Ata an "arch terrorist" and said he was "the main instigator of the Gaza Strip terrorism".

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"He initiated, planned, and carried out many terrorist attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip, whose suffering we have seen, he told a news conference in Tel Aviv." He was in the middle of planning further attacks on the immediate short term. He was a ticking bomb. "

Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff (IDF), Director General Aviv Kochavi, said that Abu al-Ata had undermined recent efforts to mediate a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hamas, which runs Gaza and is considered a rival of PIJ.

Mr. Netanyahu warned that there could be a prolonged period of tensions with militants in Gaza.

"Israel is not interested in escalation, but will do whatever it takes to defend us, ”he said. "And I say in advance: It can take time. Patience and calm are required."

Baha Abu al-Ata became prominent in Gaza this year, commanding fighters for the Islamic Jihad al-Quds Brigade in the northern and eastern parts of the strip.

But he was acting increasingly out of control of the dominant militant faction Hamas ordered rocket attacks seemingly without approval after Israeli soldiers shot and injured dozens of Palestinians during regular protests at the perimeter fence earlier this month.

A Palestinian TV presenter even warned in the air recently that his actions could see the Israelis trying to kill him.

A serious escalation of hostilities is now likely, despite Israel's efforts to signal to Hamas that it has not returned to a broader strategy of so-called targeted killings.

How have Palestinian militants responded?

At Abu al-Atat's funeral, senior PIJ official Khaled al-Batsh said that Israel had "conducted two concerted attacks – in Syria and Gaza – in a declaration of war."

PIJ promised that its retaliation would "rock the Zionist unity".

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Israeli Prime Minister said Baha Abu al-Ata was a "ticking bomb"

Hamas said that Israel bore "full responsibility for the consequences of this escalation". It warned that the murder of Abu al-Ata "would not pass without punishment".

After the air strike, rockets from Gaza were fired into Israeli territory. Some were intercepted by Israel's iron dome air defense system, the IDF said.

The air raid sirens sounded over parts of southern and central Israel, including Holon and Modiin, located more than 50 km from the border with Gaza.

A factory in Sderot met, which led to a major flame, along with two houses in Netivot and Eshkol Regional Council, Israeli media reported.

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In the wake of his killing, rockets fired against Israel from Gaza

After several hours, the IDF said it had begun revenge strikes against the PIJ targets in Gaza, met with a training association and underground sites used for manufacturing and storing ammunition.

Israeli aircraft also targeted PIJ rocket launchers in two separate strikes, according to the IDF. Gaza Ministry of Health reported that two Palestinian men were killed in northern Gaza.

The European Union called for an immediate end to the launching of rockets against civilians, which it said was totally unacceptable, and said it supported Egyptian efforts to broker "a rapid and complete escalation".

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