Israel launched a major offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing the military commander of Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group vowed would “open the gates of hell”.
The onslaught shattered hopes that a truce mediated on Tuesday by Egypt could pull the two sides back from the brink of war after five days of escalating Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes at militant targets.
Operation “Pillar of Defense” began with a surgical strike on a car carrying the commander of the military wing of Hamas, the Islamist movement which controls Gaza and dominates a score of smaller armed groups.
Within minutes of the death of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, big explosions were rocking Gaza, as the Israeli air force struck at selected targets just before sundown, blasting plumes of smoke and debris high above the crowded city.
The government of Sudan accused Israel on Wednesday of carrying out a fatal airstrike on a car traveling from the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.
Sudan is considered a transit point in the weapons route to Hamas, the Palestinian faction that runs Gaza. Israel has not yet responded to the accusation.
Sudanese officials said a missile struck the car around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, obliterating the vehicle and killing two people who were inside.
The Sudanese government said Wednesday that it was sure Israel was behind the attack and that it was prepared to take the issue to the United Nations Security Council, but officials did not specify what evidence they had.
A Sudanese government spokesperson, Rabie Atti, called the missile strike an attack on sovereignty. “This is piracy and should be stopped by the international community,” he said.