Hamas military leader killed in Israeli air strike

The car in which Ahmed Jabari was travelling on Wednesday (Photo: Israel Channel 2 screen capture)

The car in which Ahmed Jabari was travelling on Wednesday (Photo: Israel Channel 2 screen capture)

A leading Hamas military commander has been killed in a targeted Israeli air strike.

Ahmed Jabari was head of Hamas’ military wing and the group’s most significant military figure in Gaza. He is the most senior Hamas figure to be killed for four years and was top of Israel's most-wanted list.

Jabari had overseen the imprisonment of former Israeli prisoner-of-war Gilad Shalit. He was seen as a leading strategist and operational expert within Hamas and was credited with masterminding the group's rise to power in Gaza.

The strike on Wednesday afternoon was in response to the dozens of rockets launched into southern Israel by Palestinian terrorist groups in recent days. Further air strikes reportedly took place over Khan Younis and Rafah. Some media reports suggested Israel had also hit Hamas-run police stations in the Gaza Strip.

Israel also conducted strikes on around 20 underground sites used by Palestinian groups to store long-range missiles.

Hamas television reports claimed the Al-Qassam Brigades had "declared war on Israel" in response to the strike.

The IDF confirmed Israeli forces had launched an operation - titled "Pillar of Defence" - following the targeting of Israeli civilians.

In a statement, Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet said: "Jabari was responsible for financing and directing military operations and attacks against Israel.

"His elimination today is a message to Hamas officials in Gaza that if they continue promoting terrorism against Israel, they will be hurt."

Earlier on Wednesday rockets thought to be fired from the Sinai peninsula landed on a small Israeli community close to the Egyptian border.

Last updated: 4:23pm, November 14 2012