GAZA/OCCUPIED AL-QUDs (Dispatches) – The occupying regime of Israel assassinated a top commander from the Palestinian resistance movement Islamic Jihad on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, drawing rocket salvoes that reached as far as Tel Aviv in the worst fighting in months.
The rare targeted strike which killed Islamic Jihad's Baha Abu al-Atta in Gaza came as Syrian state media said a separate missile attack had hit the home of an Islamic Jihad official in Damascus, killing two people including one of his sons.
As the sound of Palestinian rockets and airstrikes echoed throughout Gaza and Zionist occupied towns, Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh spoke at the midday Gaza funeral of al-Atta.
"Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war," he said. Mourners fired guns into the air, chanting "revenge!"
In Tel Aviv, Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu described al-Atta as a "ticking bomb" who was responsible for a string of recent retaliatory rocket, drone and sniper attacks and was suspected of planning more very soon.
The occupying regime did not comment on the separate strike which Damascus said it carried out in Syria.
Possible escalation in Gaza may hinge on whether the much larger Islamic resistance group in Gaza, Hamas, would join Islamic Jihad in firing rockets at the Zionist regime.
Hamas joined Islamic Jihad in condemning the Israel. The Zionist regime "bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation," Hamas said in a statement, pledging that al-Atta's death "will not go unpunished."
The rocket barrage sent Zionists huddling for shelter and forced occupied cities and towns to shut down.
Gaza authorities reported five people killed, including al-Atta, 42 and his wife in the pre-dawn strike that destroyed a floor in their home, scattering debris around their neighborhood.
Two more airstrikes in Gaza, one of which the Israeli military claimed targeted an Islamic Jihad rocket crew, killed three more Palestinian men.
Gaza medical officials said 24 Palestinians had been wounded, as ambulances streaked through abandoned streets and Israeli missiles landed, many in open fields.
In Occupied Palestine, officials said 22 Zionists had sustained injuries. Among the sites hit by Palestinian rockets were a factory in Sderot and a highway where CCTV footage showed cars and a bus barely escaping the impact.
The occupying regime’s military, as usual, claimed that its air defense systems intercepted some of the Palestinian rockets.
The Zionist regime casts rising Gaza tensions as part of a regional struggle with Iran that has also played out in Syria.
Right-wing leader Netanyahu has invoked such scenarios in trying to form a broad coalition cabinet with centre-left rivals to secure a fifth term after two inconclusive elections this year.
Islamic Jihad said the target of the Damascus attack was the home of a political leader, Akram Al-Ajouri. Israel's Army Radio described al-Ajouri as head of Islamic Jihad's military wing.
At the scene of the Damascus strike, a Reuters journalist said the top floor of a two-storey building had been completely scorched. A neighbor said he had been woken up at around 4 a.m. by three explosions that had blown open the doors in his house.
Syrian state media said six people were wounded, describing the target as a civilian home in Mezzah, a western district of the capital where several embassies are located.