Senior Hamas military wing official Adnan Al-Ghoul, 46, and his deputy, Imad Abbas were killed in an Israel Air Force missile strike in Gaza City on Thursday night.
Al-Ghoul was responsible for assembling a number of explosive devices used in suicide bombings in Gaza, and had masterminded the development of homemade Qassam rockets and anti-tank missiles. Israel tried to target Al-Ghoul and top Iz a Din al-Kassam militant Muhammad Def in 2001, but the two escaped.
Hamas spokesman Musher Al-Masri confirmed that Adnan Al-Ghoul, a founder of the group's military wing and its No. 2 leader, was killed. "It's a new crime committed by the Zionist occupation government against one of the leaders of the Palestinian resistance," Al-Masri said. He went on to say that, "Hamas retaliation will be painful and the Zionist enemy will regret this awful crime.?"
The air strike took place north of Gaza City as dozens of people left a nearby mosque following evening prayers. Upon news of Al-Ghoul's death, thousands of angry Hamas supporters took to the streets in several refugee camps, calling for revenge and chanting anti-Israel slogans.
Later Thursday, an IAF missile hit the home of a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees umbrella militant group near the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, but caused no casualties, Palestinian witnesses said. Militants said the apparent target, Amer Qarmout, was unhurt. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Al-Ghoul had been involved in Palestinian terror groups for more than 20 years, starting off in Fatah, and later joining Islamic organizations. For years he received wages from Palestinian security services.
The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement describing Al-Ghoul as a "leading Hamas figure" responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis. It said he had produced Qassam rockets, which have killed three people in recent months, masterminded at least two suicide bombings, and developed anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat condemned Thursday's killing, which he said "reflects the determination of the Israeli government to continue the path of military solutions rather than negotiations."
Earlier Thursday, a Qassam rocket was fired at the Negev town of Sderot, for the first time since the end of a recent massive IDF offensive aimed at halting rocket fire on Israeli targets.
The rocket fell in an open area on the outskirts of the town, and there were no injuries.
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