Palestinian armed groups threatened war with Israel on Tuesday after a series of dawn strikes targeted Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza and Damascus, pushing both sides to the edge of all-out-war.
Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata was killed in an airstrike east of Gaza City, along with his wife, while a second round of Israeli bombings were also reported later on Tuesday in the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The Damascus home of an Islamic Jihad figure was also hit in suspected Israeli rocket strikes on Tuesday, killing the commander's son and a civilian.
This led to around 50 rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, in retaliation for the Israeli strikes.
Islamic Jihad threatened war with Israel, while Hamas said its foe "had crossed a red line" by hitting Gaza in strikes that killed at least three people.
"These terrorist crimes are aggression and a declaration of war on the Palestinian people, and the enemy bears for responsibility for them," Islamic Jihad said in a statement.
"We promise to continue the fight, and our response will undoubtedly come to shake the foundations of the Zionist entity."
Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziad al-Nakhala told an Arabic-language website that his organisation was ready for a direct confrontation with Israel.
"We are going to war. Netanyahu has crossed all the red lines in assassinating Al-Quds Brigades Commander Baha Abu al-Ata. We will respond forcefully," he said, according to Haaretz.
A senior Islamic Jihad commander also claimed that Gaza's myriad armed groups - some of which have fought a low-level war against one another - were now united against Israel.
"Islamic Jihad's military arm is not alone in this campaign," he said, according to Haaretz.
Hamas also threatened retaliation for the Israeli airstrikes that come amid a period of troubles for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"This crime committed by Israel will not pass silently, and will be met with retaliation by the resistance forces," Hamas said, according to Haaretz.
Sirens sounded in cities across southern Israel, including Tel Aviv, after dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza in retaliation for the assassinations.
Iron Dome intercepted 20 rockets, although others made it past missile defence system with a direct hit on home, the Israeli army said, and a number of Israelis also injured from the salvo.
Hamas and Israel have fought three war since 2008 with Gaza which is still under a punishing siege since the Islamist movement took power.
Despite the latest stand-off, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday he does not seek war with Hamas but will "do what is necessary to defend ourselves".
He also justified the assassination of Baha Abu Al-Ata.
"This arch-terrorist was the main perpetrator of terrorism in the Strip," Netanyahu said, according to Israeli media.
"He was in the process of planning more attacks… he was [considered] a ticking bomb."
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