At least 13 Palestinians, including three Islamic Jihad commanders, have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian health officials said eight women and children were among the dead. Another 20 people were injured.
According to Israel, it has started an operation to take out militants who are a direct threat to its population. Islamic Jihad has pledged retribution, and militants in Gaza are anticipated to respond by firing rockets into Israel.
The BBC reports that Israeli officials are getting ready for days of combat. The strikes were the deadliest since three days of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad last August.
The most recent attacks occurred early on Tuesday morning when 40 Israeli aeroplanes and helicopters assaulted Gaza in waves, damaging homes and terrifying locals. At least two apartments had their fronts torn off, and others were damaged, according to pictures.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry, four mothers and four children were also murdered. Children and women made almost half of those hurt, and several of them were hospitalized in critical condition.
Russia’s representative office in the Palestinian territories announced that one of its citizens, Dr Jamal Khaswan, a former chairman of the Gaza Dentists’ Association, was killed along with his wife and their son.
Another two of their children survived, it said. They included 10-year-old Diala, who was filmed sitting in the front seat of an ambulance and crying out for her father.
Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, confirmed the deaths of three of its commanders, along with their wives and a number of their children. It identified them as:
“We affirm that the blood of the martyrs will increase our resolve,” the al-Quds Brigades said. “We will not leave our positions, and the resistance will continue, God willing.”
Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said: “Any terrorist who harms Israeli citizens will be made to regret it.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Bahtini was the senior operational officer of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and that he was responsible for the rocket fire from Gaza in the last month.
“He was an imminent threat to the security of Israeli civilians.”
Officially known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the militant group is the biggest in Gaza next to Hamas, which controls the territory.
It has been responsible for many of the rocket attacks on Israel from the territory in recent years and is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
There was a serious flare-up last week, as Islamic Jihad and other groups fired several barrages of rockets into Israel over two days following the death in an Israeli prison of a Palestinian hunger striker. The Israeli military carried out air strikes in response.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned: “Assassination of leaders will not bring the Occupation [Israel] security but more resistance.”
“The enemy has made a mistake in its calculations and will pay the price for its crime,” he added.
The spokesman for West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the Israeli government “bears full responsibility for this dangerous escalation”.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland condemned the deaths of civilians and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.
“I remain fully engaged with all sides in an attempt to avoid a broader conflict with devastating consequences for all,” he said.
READ ALSO FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE