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Israeli strike kills Islamic Jihad commander, prompting new wave of violence

ISRAEL sparked a new wave of bloodletting in Gaza today with a pre-dawn air strike that killed an Islamic Jihad commander and his wife.

Bahaa Abu el-Atta and his wife Asmaa were killed in the bombing. Four of their children and a neighbour were taken to hospital.

Israel also fired three missiles at a house in the Syrian capital Damascus belonging to another Islamic Jihad leader, Akram al-Ajouri. Mr Ajouri was not hurt but his son was killed, alongside a man identified as Abdullah Yousef Hassan, in what the Syrian government called “a heinous act.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “Assassinations cannot and will not put an end to resistance,” saying the Islamist group, which governs Gaza, would be liaising with Islamic Jihad and other militant organisations on their response.

Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for the raids and more than 50 missiles were fired from Gaza into Israel over the day. No Israeli citizens had been killed when the Morning Star went to press.

The missiles prompted further air strikes and bombardment by the Israeli Defence Forces, killing at least four Palestinians.

Israel banned public gatherings in the open, told schools and universities to close and asked “non-essential” workers to stay at home. Army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said: “We are preparing for a number of days of fighting.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Atta had been planning a new attack on Israel and was a “ticking time bomb.” 

But Knesset member Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Hadash alliance, which comprises of the Communist Party of Israel and some other left forces, accused Mr Netanyahu of picking a fight with Gaza for political reasons as talks continue on a possible coalition government.

“The man who lost consecutive elections will leave the ground burnt in a desperate attempt to stay in his position,” he tweeted. “For a decade, he worked every morning to prolong the occupation and undermine prospects for peace, and this is what he did today as well.”

Walid Taha, who, like Mr Odeh, sits in the Knesset for the Joint List alliance of mostly Arab parties, said Mr Netanyahu was courting “real disaster” and that “the lives of innocent people” were being sacrificed to his aggressive policy.

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