The Israeli government launched a military offensive, Operation Pillar of Defense, against Palestinian targets in Gaza on Wednesday morning.
One strike (video below) killed Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the military commander of Hamas, the democratically elected -- yet highly controversial -- government of the Palestinian people.
Jaabari died with an unidentified associate when their car (pictured) was blown up by an Israeli missile, reports Reuters.
In response, Hamas officials said on local radio: "The occupation has opened the gates of hell. Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences."
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The Israeli attack on Al-Jaabari happened after five days of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes on militant targets.
The Israeli air force also attacked other targets just before sundown. Civilians ran for cover, but seven people, including two children, were killed, reports Reuters.
Israeli army spokeswoman Colonel Avital Leibovitch said in a statement: "This is an operation against terror targets of different organizations in Gaza."
Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, Israel's chief military spokesman, told Channel 2 TV: "There are preparations, and if we are required to, the option of an entry by ground is available."
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Israeli Defense Forces are tweeting details of the conflict on Twitter.com.