JERUSALEM, Israel -- Ahmed Jabari, head of the military wing of Hamas, was killed Wednesday afternoon in a surgical air strike in Gaza by the Israel Air Force. Three others, including his son, were reportedly killed in the strike.
A senior commander with the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Jabari helped plan the June 2006 kidnapping of former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Following Shalit's release, Jabari vowed to abduct more soldiers to use as bargaining chips in prisoner swaps.
What's the situation on the ground? CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell has more from Jerusalem.
IDF Maj. Gen. (ret.) Israel Ziv, former head of IDF operations, told journalists Jabari was in charge of coordinating relations between Hamas, Iran, al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and he was also behind the rocket attacks that began last weekend.
Ziv said the operation that began today, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense, sends a "very clear message to Hamas" that Israel is unwilling to continue with a situation that has taken so many Israeli citizens hostage.
"I'm sure it's a big shock to the Hamas to get such a hit," Ziv said. "Definitely for them it's a kind of declaration of war."
An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the IAF targeted 20 missile storage sites throughout Gaza.
Hamas confirmed the news on its satellite television channel, warning that Jabari's assassination brings a heightened state of war with Israel. Hamas vowed to retaliate in "calculated attacks," not sporadic rocket fire, saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would regret the operation.
Earlier, Four Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were deployed near the larger cities in the south. The IDF also issued emergency call-up orders for Homefront Command reservists, but no ground forces have been activated at this time.
Israel Police and Magen David Adom were placed on highest alert.
Schools within 40 kilometers (26 miles) of Gaza will be closed until the operation is over.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Dan Harel, former deputy chief of staff and head of the southern command told reporters, "my prime minister said 'quiet will be answered with quiet' so it depends what Hamas will do in the next 24 hours."