Israeli officials say “close to 20 sites” were targeted across Gaza on Wednesday. Hamas says Israeli airstrikes were carried out in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah.
Twenty Palestinians were also injured in the Israeli attacks. Children are reported to be among those killed in the strikes.
The head of Izzeddin Qassam Brigades Ahmed al-Jabari was killed when the car he was travelling in was hit in Gaza City. Jabari, 46, is the most senior Hamas official to be killed in the Gaza Strip in the past four years.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence service has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hamas has denied Israeli reports claiming that commander Raed al-Attar was also killed in an Israeli attack, saying he was injured and taken to hospital.
Islamic Jihad says Israel has announced war on Gaza by killing Jabari in the Palestinian enclave and Izzeddin Qassam Brigades said Israel opened gates of hell to itself by killing the commander.
Several missiles were fired from Gaza to Sderot and Ashkelon in Israel in response to the deadly attacks. Some reports say state of emergency has been declared in Israel.
Meanwhile, an Israeli official has said that Jabari’s assassination was not the end of Israel’s assault on the coastal Palestinian territory and more strikes would follow.
The Israeli military has also said that it is prepared for a ground operation in Gaza after its targeted killing of senior Hamas commander “if necessary”.
“All options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF (army) is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza,” the military said on its official Twitter account shortly after killing Jabari.
A Pentagon spokesman said shortly after the attacks that Washington is closely watching developments in Gaza and that the US stands by Israel.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely. We stand by our Israeli partners in their right to defend themselves against terrorism,” Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Warren said.
Egypt says it is considering recalling its ambassador to Israel over the fresh round of Tel Aviv violence against Gaza.