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(CNN) – Israel launched a series of blistering air strikes Wednesday on what it says are terrorist targets in Gaza, killing the chief of Hamas’ military wing and at least eight others, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
Palestinian leaders immediately condemned the attacks as an escalation, with President Mahmoud Abbas calling for an emergency session of the Council of the League of Arab States to discuss what he called Israeli “aggression,” the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Hamas’ military wing warned that Israelis had opened “the gates of hell on themselves” with the move.
A report on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) website said Brig. Gen. Yoav Moredechai would not rule out a ground attack.
“Infantry brigades have been shifted in preparation for the operation,” he said, according to the website.
Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Colonel Avital Leibovich said: “There are some reserve units that are preparing but nothing more than that at this point.”
There were at least 35 airstrikes in an eight-hour span, Hamas security sources said. As night fell, more air strikes could be heard, and Hamas security officials said four more attacks hit empty swaths of farmland in Gaza late Tuesday.
Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system intercepted 17 rockets launched at Israel in the span of a few hours, the IDF said, and a rocket struck a shopping center in a major city in southern Israel. The IDF said at least 130 rockets had been fired from Gaza since Saturday.
Palestinian medical sources said nine people died in the Israeli air strikes, including a young girl, and 35 others were wounded, with 10 in serious condition. However, the health minister in Gaza, Mufid al-Mukhalalati, put the death toll at seven, including two young girls.
The dead included Ahmed al-Ja’abari, the popular and influential head of the Hamas military wing, and his son, the group said on its website.