In an end to recent calm, targeted Israeli attacks in Gaza today killed at least five militants, including the commander of a group blamed for the 2006 abduction of an Israeli soldier, according to The Associated Press.
The renewed violence apparently prompted a volley of retaliatory rocket fire which injured at least eight Israelis, according to Ynetnews. Residents within 4.3 miles (7 km) of the Gaza border were instructed to remain indoors and shut the windows of their bomb shelters, according to The Jerusalem Post.
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The AP said the IDF claimed it had targeted Zuhair al-Qaissi, commander of the Popular Resistance Committee, a large group linked to Hamas, which governs the Gaza strip. The explosion killed his son-in-law and fellow PRC commander Mahmoud Hanini as well as a lower-ranking Gaza militant.
An Israeli attack on his home in January left one dead but failed to kill him.
Hours after the attack on al-Qaissi, according to the AP, the Israel Defense Force also killed two other militants Israel said were preparing to fire rockets.
Citing Palestinian witnesses, the AP said aerial drones had been seen overhead before the attack and that al-Qaissi’s head was severed in the blast.
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Israel accused al-Qaissi of plotting an attacking incursion into Israel similar to the one carried out in August from Egypt which left eight Israelis dead and 40 more injured, the news agency said.
The PRC is blamed for the abduction of Gilad Schalit, who was freed last year after five years’ captivity in a prisoner swap in which 1,027 Palestinian detainees were released by Israel, many of whom vowed to return to violence.
According to Ynetnews, a spokesman for the Nasser Salah-al-Din Brigades, the PRC’s military wing, said the group had ordered combatants to retaliate.
"By harming Secretary-General al-Qaissi, the Zionist enemy opened the doors of hell and revenge," the spokesman was quoted as saying. "The response will be of the same scope as the despicable crime."