Israel launched a military operation to eliminate militants and weapon sites in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing the commander of Hamas‘s military wing, in a move with the potential to trigger action beyond its borders.
The assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari in a missile strike in Gaza City was the “start of a broader operation”, according to the Israel Defence Forces, which it named Operation Pillar of Defence.
Ground forces were on standby to enter Gaza if given an order, the IDF said. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, warned that the military was “prepared to expand” its Gaza operation.
“All options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza,” the IDF said in a statement on Twitter. The Israeli navy also confirmed that its gunships had fired shells into the Gaza Strip.
As Hamas’s armed wing warned that Jabari’s assassination “had opened the gates of hell”, Israel was braced for a surge in rocket fire from Gaza aimed at towns and communities in the south of the country.