GAZA CITY: Israel’s military killed a commander of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip yesterday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire and fears of a severe escalation in violence.

Separately in Damascus, Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of another Islamic Jihad militant, killing his son and another person. Israel had not commented on that strike.

Later yesterday morning, Israel said it targeted two Islamic Jihad militants from the group’s rocket-launching unit who were posing an immediate threat.

Gaza’s health ministry reported one Palestinian killed in that strike in the northern Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad’s armed wing announced the death of the commander in Gaza City after Israel confirmed it had targeted Baha Abu Al-Ata, 42. The group said Ata’s wife was also killed.

Israel blamed Ata for recent rocket fire into its territory and said he was preparing further attacks. The strike led to barrages of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel and air raid sirens rang out in various parts of the country while residents ran to bomb shelters.

Israel’s military said around 50 rockets had been fired at its territory and air defences had intercepted around 20 of them.

A house in Netivot, an Israeli town near the Gaza Strip, was hit and another rocket hit a junction at Gan Yavne near the coastal city of Ashdod, police said.

Video spread online showing the rocket that hit the road narrowly missing cars.

Israeli medics said they had treated 29 people.

“We woke up and saw the news regarding the assassination at 5.30 am, and we celebrated,” said a man who gave his name only as Netanel in the town of Sderot, near the Gaza border. – AFP