Security officials in the Gaza Strip say at least six Palestinians, including a senior commander with Hamas’s armed wing, have been killed by Israeli forces who carried out an undercover operation in the besieged enclave.
A senior official of Hamas, the group administering the Gaza Strip, said on Sunday that an Israeli special forces team infiltrated an area near the southern city of Khan Younis in a civilian car.
Among those reported killed in the raid was Nour Baraka, a prominent commander of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.
“We heard that a special Israeli unit went inside Khan Younis and assassinated Nour Baraka and another [commander],” Ghazi Hamad, senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera.
“After [that], the car which carried this special unit or some collaborators, they tried to escape … but they were followed by Hamas and the al-Qassam Brigades and after that Israel tried to cover this car through striking here in Gaza,” he added.
“I expect this night in Gaza to not be easy, to not be calm.”
Witnesses said that during the chase Israeli aircraft fired over 40 missiles in the area where the incident took place, killing at least four other people.
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson for Hamas, denounced what he called a “cowardly Israeli attack”.
The Israeli military said in a brief statement: “During IDF (Israel Defense Forces) operational activity in the Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire evolved.”
The army did not provide any other details, but said all its soldiers had returned.
In the early hours of Monday, reports said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had cut short a visit to Paris and was returning to Israel after the events in the Gaza Strip.
Further details were not immediately available.
Al Jazeera and news agencies