1 of 9 | An injured man is carried into Alnajjar hospital after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo
May 9 (UPI) -- Dozens of Israeli warplanes bombed Gaza early Tuesday, killing at least three senior members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, authorities said.
Operation Shield and Arrow began about 2:15 a.m. local time with the Israeli Air Force hitting targets in the Palestinian-populated enclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
Officials said the airstrikes, conducted by some 40 warplanes, had ceased more than four hours after they had began though assets remained in the air to respond to any retaliatory attacks.
Shortly before 8 a.m., security forces had begun an unspecified operation in the Kasbah area of Nablus, a Palestinian city in the occupied West bank, according to a timeline of the operation by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Officials said the strike was a response to rocket attacks that have targeted Israel from Gaza in the past month. Killed were Khalil Bahitini, 44, Tarek Ezzaldin, 49, and Jihad Ghanem, 62.
The military identified Bahitini as as a senior operational officer of Islamic Jihad and its Northern Gaza Division commander; Ghanem as one of the organization's most senior members; and Ezzaldin as having directed the terrorist organization's operation in Judea and Samaria from Gaza and were planning attacks against Israelis.
Ten sites, including six military compounds, as well as weapons-manufacturing facilities, were hit in the strike, officials said.
"We have achieved what we set for ourselves as a goal and we have hit the one who has led the terrorism in the last months," IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a statement. "Those who fired a barrage or rockets into Sderot in the middle of the day and endanger civilian lives, those who continuously work to harm Israel's security, will not be immune."
The operation was conducted less than a week after dozens of rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza over the death of jailed Sheikh Khader Adnan. Adnan had spent 87 days on a hunger strike protesting his incarceration.
The State of Palestine's ministry of foreign affairs has made an urgent call on the international community to intervene, stating the strike has killed 12 people, most of whom were described as children, women and unarmed civilians.
"The ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemns in the strongest possible terms the heinous crime committed by the occupation army against our people in the Gaza Strip," it said in a statement.