GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas' military chief was killed by an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday as multiple attacks struck the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Israel said, ending what had appeared to be a tacit truce between both sides.
Ahmed al-Jaabari, who ran the organization's armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, died along with another passenger after their car was targeted by an Israeli missile, Hamas said.
He was later confirmed as al-Jaabari deputy Muhammad al-Hums.
The attack came despite signs that Egypt had managed to broker a truce between Israel and Gaza militants after five days of violence which left seven Palestinians dead and at least 50 injured.
"Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences," Islamic Jihad said.
Witnesses told Ma'an they heard two huge explosions near a public service hospital in Gaza City and the Gaza port.
Israel's Shin Bet domestic intelligence service confirmed it had carried out the attack, saying it had killed Jaabri because of his "decade-long terrorist activity".
"The purpose of this operation was to severely impair the command and control chain of the Hamas leadership, as well as its terrorist infrastructure," Israeli military sources said.
Israel's army said it had targeted a "significant number of long range rockets sites (over 40km) owned by Hamas," in attacks that Israeli officials said could last for days.
"The days we face in the south will, in my estimation, prove protracted," Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 TV after Israeli air strikes killed the military chief of Gaza's Hamas government.
"The homefront must brace itself resiliently."
File photo of Ahmad al-Jabari during the release of Gilad Shalit
File photo of assassinated al-Jaabari deputy Muhammad al-Hums
Wasseem el-Sarraj, a researcher and activist based in Gaza City, described the scene.
"I was at home in Gaza City, and I heard a loud explosion. It later became clear that it was an assassination. Since that point, we've had intense drone activity and bombing that's been sustained.
"I am at home with two young children, and this is very worrying to all of us. We are expecting the worst over the next couple of days," el-Sarraj said.