IAF Strike Kills Five Islamic Jihad Militants in Southern Gaza Strip

Strike kills Islamic Jihad commander, 4 munition experts; IDF sources say strike targeted cell responsible for launching Grad rocket at Israel earlier this week.

The IAF struck an Islamic Jihad training camp Saturday in southern Gaza Strip, killing a commander of the Palestinian faction and four of its munitions experts, officials on both sides said.

According to IDF sources, the strike was targeted at the same cell who was responsible for launching a Grad rocket which exploded in Ashdod earlier this week.

Gaza militants rocketing Israel, 2008.

Palestinian sources say the strike occurred near the Al-Sultan neighborhood, near the former Israeli settlement of Atzmona. Sources also said the strike killed commander Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil and four senior comrades who oversaw the manufacture of bombs and rockets for the faction.

In the wake of the strike, the organization says that a response will come “deep into Israeli territory.”

On Friday, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip told Haaretz that the Islamic Jihad was behind Wednesday night’s rocket attack, which was an attempt to embarrass Hamas and show its resentment toward the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal.

The Grad rocket fired from the Gaza on Wednesday exploded near the southern city of Ashdod. There were no reports of injuries, but a number of people were treated for shock.

Sirens went off in Rehovot, Rishon Letzion and other cities in the area and the residents were told to take shelter.

Islamic Jihad, a sometime ally of Gaza's ruling Hamas, has chafed at recent efforts by the powerful faction to impose de facto ceasefires with Israel.

Hamas and Israel carried out the first stage of a major Egyptian-brokered prisoner exchange last week which stirred speculation a more enduring detente could be in the works.

"There is no chance of speaking about a truce now, following such a big crime against leaders of the group," said Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed.

"Now we are talking about the suitable response to this crime."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of a "serious escalation against our people".

In keeping with Israeli government policy, the military statement said: "The Hamas terror organization is solely responsible for any terrorist activity emanating from the Gaza Strip."

Earlier this month, An Israeli air strike wounded three Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the air strike targeted a militant squad that was preparing to launch rockets across the border into Israel.

The Israel-Gaza border has been mostly quiet since the Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after five days of cross-border violence in August.