Israeli occupation forces killed seven Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in a clandestine raid targeting a Hamas commander and air strikes that provided cover for the commandos to escape back into Israel by car.
The Israeli incursion and air attacks drew rocket fire from the Gaza-based resistance late on Sunday.
A senior official of Hamas, the group administering the Gaza Strip, said the Israeli special forces team infiltrated an area near the southern city of Khan Younis in a civilian vehicle.
Among those reported killed in the attack was Nour Baraka, a prominent commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
A ground operation inside the Gaza Strip is rare and will likely significantly boost tensions.
After [that], the car which carried this special unit or some collaborators, they tried to escape but they were followed by Hamas and the al-Qassam Brigades and after that Israel tried to cover this car through striking here in Gaza, he added.
I expect this night in Gaza to not be easy, to not be calm.
Witnesses said during the chase Israeli aircraft fired more than 40 missiles in the area where the incident took place, killing at least four other people.
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson for Hamas, denounced what he called a cowardly Israeli attack.
An Israeli soldier was killed when an exchange of fire erupted during the operation, the army said, as tensions rose with the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.
After the clash erupted, sirens were reported in southern Israel indicating rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
Ten launches from Gaza towards Israel were identified and two were intercepted by Israeli missile defenses, the army said. It was not immediately clear where the others landed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on an official visit to France, announced he was rushing back to Israel to deal with the crisis.
A return by Israel to a policy of targeting individual Hamas commanders � tactics largely abandoned in recent years � could significantly raise tensions along the border.
Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and recent months of unrest have raised fears of a fourth.
Violence has flared frequently on the frontier since Palestinians began weekly protests on March 30.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have demonstrated along the fence with Israel demanding their right to return to the homes and land their families were expelled from 70 years ago.
They are also demanding an end to Israel’s crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
Since the Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the fence.
Source: Palestine Chronicle