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Israel targets Hamas leader in series of airstrikes

Airstrikes from Israel on Gaza have killed at least eight people, including the head of the armed wing of Hamas. Israel has announced that more airstrikes could come and has not ruled out sending in ground troops.

Wednesday's airstrike targeted Ahmed Jabari's car in Gaza City, and killed a second person who was riding as a passenger. It was the first of over 20 airstrikes to hit the Gaza Strip, which have killed at least eight people and wounded at least 30 in total.

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Israeli military statement on airstrikes

In a televised address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implied that more attacks could be on the horizon.

"Today we sent a clear message to Hamas and other terrorist organisations, and if it becomes necessary we are prepared to expand the operation," Netanyahu said.

Increased attacks in recent days from the Gaza Strip on Israel prompted Wednesday's response, and comments from the Israeli military day indicated the use of ground forces was not off the table if the violence continued.

Fuel on the fire

The attack on Jabari sparked an immediate response from Palestinians in Gaza City. A spokesman from Hamas said the attack on Jabari had "opened the gates of hell."

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas released a statement through the official WAFA news agency condemning Wednesday's attack.

"Abbas warned of the seriousness of the Israeli escalation and demanded an immediate end to the aggression," said the statement, which was released from Switzerland where Abbas is in meetings regarding a possible bid for UN membership later this month. "Abbas asked the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi, to call an emergency meeting... to discuss the dangerous Israel escalation and brutal aggression on our people in the Gaza Strip."

Egypt's foreign ministry released a statement condemning the attack, as the country appeared to be close to brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

"[Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr] called on Israel to stop its strikes on Gaza Strip immediately," the statement said.

A statement released by the spokesman of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon restated Ban's previous calls not to let tensions escalate in the region.

mz/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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