Khaled Mansour, the Islamic Jihad leader who was killed in an Israeli missile attack on southern Gaza on Saturday night, was responsible for years of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
The Israeli military said Mansour led the armed group’s operations in the southern region of Gaza, and had a rank equivalent to that of a general. It added that he claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two Israeli soldiers in 2010 and was involved in another attack that wounded the Israeli commander, the Southern Gaza Brigade, in 2004.
One of the soldiers killed in 2010, Major Eliraz Peretz, is almost a household name in Israel. His mother, Miriam Peretz, who lost two uniformed sons in two separate enemy operations, became a national symbol of sacrifice.
The body of Mr. Mansour was recovered from under the rubble of a collapsed building in the Rafah camp in the southern Gaza Strip, along with the bodies of his deputy, another fighter and five civilians, including a child, according to the Islamic Jihad movement.
The militant group mourned their deaths in a statement and vowed to respond with more rocket attacks. Islamic Jihad survivors attended funerals on Sunday for the dead.
Israeli military officials said they regretted the deaths of civilians in Gaza and pledged to investigate them. But they blamed the gunmen for operating out of residential neighborhoods and using Gazans as “human shields”.
The army also confirmed that Mr. Mansour was planning an attack on Israel using anti-tank missiles and rockets.
Mr. Mansour’s assassination came on the heels of the killing of the Islamic Jihad commander in the northern region of Gaza, Taysir al-Jabari, in Israeli raids on Friday that opened the latest escalation in the fighting. Israel said the strikes thwarted the group’s plans to launch an anti-tank missile attack along the border in retaliation for the arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank.
Fadi Hannouna contributed reporting from Gaza City.