İrem UZUN -TDO- Israel has launched airstrikes in Gaza and Syria against two senior figures from the militant group Islamic Jihad and immediately prompted dozens of rounds of retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza.The senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata, 42, and his wife were killed in their home in Gaza City, the Iran-backed group said in a statement. Two other people, believed to be their children, were wounded.

The overnight Israeli strikes and armed Palestinian response kicked off a fresh round of violence, with Israel scrambling fighter jets to bomb Islamic Jihad fighters, including a training compound and weapon storage sites.About 25 Israelis were hurt in the Gaza rockets salvoes, some of which reached as far as Tel Aviv.

An Israeli army statement accused Abu al-Ata of coordinating repeated rocket launches, as well as sniper fire, on Israel over the past year. It described him as a ticking bomb. “Abu al-Ata was promoting preparations to commit immediate terror attacks in various ways towards Israeli civilians and [Israel Defense Forces] troops during the recent few days,” the statement said. His killing was a “direct act to remove an imminent threat”.

Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second most powerful group, has an on-off alliance with Hamas, but Islamic Jihad militants have at times ignored the truce. At Abu al-Ata’s funeral in Gaza, mourners fired guns into the air chanting “revenge!” as Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said“Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war”. He warned that Israel bore “full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation” and promised that Abu al-Ata’s death would “not go unpunished”.

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