The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) swiftly called for retaliation to an IAF strike in Gaza that killed PRC commander Zuhair Qaisi and senior PRC member Ahmad Hanini on Friday. A third man was also injured in the attack.
The IAF blew up a vehicle in a move to thwart a large-scale terror attack that was in its last stages of preparation, according to the IDF spokesperson.
The PRC responded with threats to reignite tensions along the testy frontier. "All options are open before the fighters to respond to this despicable crime. The assassination of our chief will not end our resistance," Abu Attiya, a spokesman for the PRC group said.
Hamas spokesman in Gaza Fawzi Barhoum said Israel was responsible for what he called "a grave escalation."
"They want us to sink in darkness and in blood," he added.
A Hamas official said Hanani had been exiled by Israel five years ago, denying earlier reports he had been one of those freed from an Israeli jail last year as part of a prisoner swap deal to gain the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.
The IDF stated that the attack was part of an operation to thwart the intentions of terrorists to carry out terror attacks in Sinai, along the border between Israel and Egypt. Qaisi had been planning and leading over the past few days, a major terror attack against Israeli targets, and the strike was conducted in order to prevent the attack.
The statement added that the IDF was not interested in an escalation, but was ready to defend Israel and would respond forcefully and decisively against against any attempt at terrorist activity.
The explosion happened shortly after two mortar shells were fired at Israel from the Hamas-ruled territory, causing no damage or injury. The rockets exploded in open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council area, which abuts the border with the Gaza Strip.
Senior IDF officials reacted to the mortal shell attacks, telling Army Radio that they would not allow the firing to continue. The officials expressed surprise that, with no reason, the shooting at civilians from Gaza continued "on Friday too... at villages surrounding Gaza." They also stressed that the mortar shell attacks had been unprovoked, and were carried out when there had been no previous IDF action in Gaza.