JERUSALEM: The Israeli army said that Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip pounded the Jewish state with “substantial” rocket fire Tuesday after Israel killed a commander of Islamic Jihad.

“There is substantial fire,” army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists in a conference call.

Rockets struck the south of Israel and warning sirens wailed in Tel Aviv, although there were no immediate reports of hits on the seaside city.  

“We are preparing for a number of days of fighting,” Conricus said.

The army ordered “non-essential” workers in Tel Aviv and central Israel to stay at home like those in the Gaza border region, ordered schools and universities to close and banned public gatherings. 

Israeli public radio said that more than a million pupils and students were missing their studies yesterday.

The flareup came after a dawn strike on the Gaza home of Islamic Jihad commander 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 raised the possibility of a severe escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, which is ruled by Islamist movement Hamas, which is allied with Islamic Jihad.

Three wars have been fought between them since 2008.

Hamas in a statement threatened revenge on Israel after the strike. – AFP