Israel bombed Gaza overnight, killing 3 senior commanders from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
The organisation also had a number of sites taken down, including a concrete tunnel production facility and a rocket manufacturing plant.
According to the latest statistics from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 12 people have been killed and 20 others injured. Islamic Jihad claims that the dead include wives and children of three of the commanders.
The Israeli Defence Forces’ (IDF) spokesperson described the targets in question as “kingpin terrorists”, and stated that they “were aware of some collateral” referring to civilian deaths.
The operation began just after 2am and was named ‘Shield and Arrow.’
The top floor of a building of apartments in Gaza City was hit, as well as a house located in Rafah in the south.
The IDF confirmed the deaths of Khalil Bhatini who was in charge of PIJ operations on the northern Gaza Strip, Tarek Azeldin, who allegedly coordinated attacks from Gaza in the West Bank, and Jahed Ahmed, a prominent figure in the military council.
Analysis by Alistair Bunkall
This situation could escalate with 12 deaths, including women and kids.
IDF claims that the strikes only target Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, the actions taken already, such as the approval of evacuating border towns, indicate they are prepared for a war.
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu signed off the operation last Friday. It was twice delayed by weather, and once when targets were not in place. As of Tuesday morning’s breakfast, no response had been received from Islamic Jihad. However, it is likely to come later today after the funerals.
Hamas’ response will determine what happens next. The group that controls the Gaza Strip has issued a statement in which it condemned the attacks, but did not say whether or not they would retaliate.
Three days of fighting broke out last year during a similar operation. Hamas chose not to take part in the previous operation, but could feel pressure from Iran to do so this time.
Mr Netanyahu is under increasing pressure to adopt a more proactive counter-terrorism strategy, which would involve striking first at targets rather than acting retroactively. Right-wing voices within his government have been calling for a more aggressive approach to military operations in the West Bank, Gaza and Gaza Strip.
Funerals are scheduled for Tuesday morning.
Israel is preparing for a possible response. Schools near the Gaza border are to be closed today. Residents have been told to stay close to bomb shelters, and some villages will be evacuated.
The crossing between Gaza and Israel at Erez has been closed and outdoor gatherings are now prohibited.
Israel’s Home Command has put its reservists on standby, and is prepared for any future action.
The attacks came as a shock, and Islamic Jihad has yet to respond. But it follows an intense 24-hour period in which nearly three dozen rockets have been fired at Israel after the death of high-profile Palestinian who was on hunger strike.