Byline: MIKE JONES firstname.lastname@example.org
AN ISRAELI air strike killed the commander of the Hamas military wing in Gaza yesterday and Israel pounded dozens of targets in Gaza in the most intense attack since an Israeli offensive four years ago.
The killing of Ahmad Jabari marked a dramatic resumption of Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian militant leaders and the Israeli military said it was the beginning of a major offensive codenamed Pillar of Defence.
Palestinians called for harsh retaliation.
The air strikes came after a weekend exchange of Gaza rocket fire and Israeli air strikes appeared to have abated. The Israeli offensive is likely to reignite the conflict.
A string of air strikes around Gaza followed. The military said its aircraft targeted more than 20 facilities which served as storage or launching sites for rockets.
Among weapons destroyed were rockets that could hit as far as 25 miles (40km) into Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet his senior Security Cabinet soon, officials said.
Hamas announced a state of emergency in Gaza. It evacuated all its security buildings and deployed its troops in Gaza away from their locations.
Mr Jabari was the most senior Hamas official to be killed since the last war in Gaza ended in early 2009.
He has long topped Israel's most-wanted list, blamed for a string of deadly attacks, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006.
In addition to Mr Jabari, eight others were killed in the strikes. Of the nine, three were confirmed as militants, two were children and the identity of others had yet to be determined, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Thirty more people were injured.
On its Twitter feed, the Israeli military said it could be escalated further.
"All options are on the table. If necessary, the (Israeli military) is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza," it said.
In a radio interview, the chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, said "at this stage" there are no plans for a ground offensive. "We're focusing on an air operation," he said.
Outside the hospital where Mr Jabari's body was taken, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya eulogised Mr Jabari and threatened Israel.
"The battle between us and the occupation is open and it will end only with the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem," an emotional Mr al-Haya said.
Thousands of angry Gazans chanted "Retaliation" and "We want you to hit Tel Aviv tonight".
Witnesses said Mr Jabari was travelling in a vehicle in Gaza City when the car exploded.
Crowds of people and security personnel rushed to the scene of the strike, trying to put …