A leading Islamic Jihad militant, Shadi Mohanna, was among five killed when Israeli forces fired missiles in a Gaza refugee camp after nightfall today.
Witnesses said the target was a white Subaru car in the Jebaliya refugee camp, a sprawling shantytown next to Gaza City. Mohanna, the Islamic Jihad field commander in northern Gaza, was killed along with his assistant, Mohammed Ghazaineh, according to Islamic Jihad.
The attack came as Palestinians were leaving mosques after evening prayers, they said. Shifa Hospital emergency director Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said five people were killed – the two Islamic Jihad militants and three bystanders.
The air strike was just the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on Thursday, part of escalating violence that has all but buried peace efforts.
The attacks have targeted northern Gaza, where militants have been firing some rockets at Israel. Since Israel’s pullout from Gaza last month, it has pledged not to tolerate any attacks from Gaza.
A witness who gave only his first name, Nidal, said at least two missiles hit the car. “The explosion was very powerful, and flying metal from the car and the missile wounded many of the people walking in the street,” he said.
Angry Palestinians demonstrated around the scene of the attack. Channel 10 TV showed footage of people waving what appeared to be a body part in the air.
The Israeli military confirmed it carried out the attack.
”In a security forces operation this evening in the northern Gaza Strip, the Israel Air Force attacked a vehicle carrying a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist who was responsible for several murderous terrorist attacks,” the military said in a statement.
Military officials added that Mohanna, the head of an Islamic Jihad cell, was responsible for rocket attacks from Gaza and for recruiting attackers.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “We want to condemn this attack and warn about the consequences of this escalation.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would carry out a relentless campaign against Palestinian militant groups, a day after an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber killed five Israelis in the Israeli town of Hadera.
Islamic Jihad said the suicide bombing was retaliation for Israel’s killing of a West Bank leader of the group earlier in the week.