Israel kills top Palestinian militant in Gaza

An Israeli air strike has killed a senior commander of the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

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

The Israeli military said Abu al-Ata was a “ticking bomb” who was planning “imminent terrorist attacks”.

At least 70 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza since the killing, which PIJ has vowed to avenge.

Twelve Israelis have been lightly wounded in rocket attacks across southern Israel, according to the Barzilai Medical Center in the city of Ashkelon.

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

Around the same time as the attack on Abu la-Ata, two people were killed and 10 injured in an Israeli air strike on the home of another Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syria’s state news agency Sana said.

Israel did not comment on the report and it was not clear if the PIJ leader, Akram al-Ajouri, was among the dead. Sana said his son Moaz was killed.

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

What happened in Gaza?

An Israeli warplane fired a missile at a residential building in the eastern Shejaiya area of Gaza before dawn on Tuesday, causing an explosion that could be heard from kilometres away.

The missile hit the third floor, the home of Bahaa Abu al-Ata, killing him and his wife.

A PIJ statement confirming Abu al-Ata’s death said he was its commander in Gaza’s northern region and that he had been undertaking “a heroic jihadist action”.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Abu al-Ata was “responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip”, including the launching of rockets towards the southern Israeli city of Sderot in August and earlier this month.

“Abu al-Ata was promoting preparations to commit immediate terror attacks in various ways towards Israeli civilians and IDF troops during the recent few days,” it added.

“The thwarting operation… was a direct act to remove an imminent threat.”

IDF spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said the “surgical strike” had destroyed only one the floor of the building where Abu al-Atta lived to minimise “collateral damage”.

He also emphasised that Israel was “not looking to further escalate the situation”.