Israeli airstrike, naval gunboats and tanks carried on through dawn in southern Gaza Strip on Thursday morning killing three Palestinians and leaving many injured after targeting the head of military wing of Hamas in a missile strike the previous night.
Aside the from the deaths, around 150 Gazans have been injured in 22 hours of Israeli air strikes, medics said.
Israel's already-strained relations with Egypt's new Islamist government frayed even further as Egypt recalled its ambassador Wednesday in response to the Israeli military operation.
Just days earlier, Israel was drawn into Syria's civil war for the first time, firing missiles into its northern neighbor for the first time in four decades after stray mortar fire landed in Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.
Waves of airstrikes on more than 100 militant targets quickly followed the assassination of Hamas military wing Ahmed Jabari. The air attacks continued steadily into the early hours Thursday, targeting the armed group's training facilities and rocket launchers in Israel's most intense attack on the territory since its full-scale war there four years ago.
In a closed-door meeting of the U.N. Council on Wednesday night, Palestine's U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Israel is “vulgarly and publicly boasting about its willful killing of Palestinians” after an air strike killed Jaabari.
In the text of his statement, Mansour said “War crimes are being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people.”
“The international community must act to bring to bring an end to Israel's illegal policies and practices against the Palestinian people.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address Wednesday the operation sent a “clear message” to Hamas and other organizations and threatened to expand the military mission if needed.
Highlighting Israel's claim that at least 768 rockets have been fired from Gaza this year, Rice told the council: “Israel, like any nation, has the right to defend itself against such vicious attacks.”
The exiled chief of the Hamas movement which rules the Palestinian territory, said in a defiant speech in Sudan on Thursday that Israel will never defeat Gaza.
“This enemy is weak and cannot vanquish Gaza,” Meshaal told a major conference of Sudanese Islamists.
“The Palestinian men and women will continue their resistance,” Meshaal vowed, describing Israel as “not a legitimate entity.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released statements saying he had spoken to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi about “the worrisome escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza and the need to prevent any further deterioration.”
He also said he had talked to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to express concern about “an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza.”
Egypt and other Arab nations called for the emergency meeting after Israel killed the Hamas military commander during more than 20 air strikes on Gaza.
Palestinian diplomats said at least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in the attacks. Israel said it had been forced to act over mounting rocket attacks into its territory.
The Israeli military released a black-and-white video of the airstrike, showing a sedan moving slowly along a road before going up in flames in an explosion so powerful that a large chunk of the vehicle flew high into the air.
Crowds of people and security personnel rushed to the scene of the strike, trying to put out the fire that had engulfed the car and left it a charred shell. Plumes of black smoke wafted into Gaza City's skies following other airstrikes. Ambulance sirens blared as people ran in panic in the streets and militants fired angrily into the air.
Outside the hospital where Jaabari's body was taken, thousands of Gazans chanted "Retaliation!" and "We want you to hit Tel Aviv tonight!"
"I was sitting on my bed with my grandson when suddenly the wall collapsed on both of our heads," said Mahmoud Bana, a 62-year-old man who was slightly wounded along with his 11-year-old grandson. "We don't know what happened but we know it is going to be a few hard days ahead."
In a statement, Hamas' prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, eulogized Jaabari and vowed revenge.
"We mourn our late leader who walked the path of jihad while he knew the end, either victory or martyrdom," Haniyeh said. "There is no fear among our people and our resistance, and we will face this vicious attack."
Advocates say targeted killings are an effective deterrent without the complications associated with a ground operation, chiefly civilian and Israeli troop casualties. Proponents argue they also prevent future attacks by removing their masterminds.
Abbas heading home
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is cutting short his European tour and flying home on Thursday after talks with Swiss officials as the situation in Gaza deteriorates by the hour, a senior Palestinian negotiator said.
“We have a very grave situation in Gaza, we have situation deteriorating on the hour every hour and President Abbas now is in touch with His Excellency President Mursi of Egypt, Dr. Nabil Elaraby of the Arab League, Ban Ki-moon ... and others in Europe and the United States, hoping to begin a process of de-escalation of the conflict,” Saeb Erekat told reporters in the Swiss capital Berne, where Abbas met Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.
“Many subjects were discussed, including the escalation in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli aggression against Gaza, and for this (reason) President Abbas decided to cut short his visit to Europe immediately after he finishes his next two meetings in Switzerland with the president and the speakers,” Erekat said.