"The gates of hell have opened" said Hamas leaders today, after an Israeli strike on Gaza Strip killed Ahmed al-Jaabari, the operational commander of Hamas's military wing.
This is just about as high in the group's military hierarchy as Israel could hit, but the spokesmen for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) have pledged to continue a "limited campaign" to stop the rocket fire which has paralized life in Jewish towns close to Gaza border.
Is this the replay of the 2009 Israeli ground invasion of Gaza? It's too early to say but an escalating exchange of fire could go on for days and weeks.
There are certain ground rules to the permanent state of war between Israel and Hamas. Israel keeps Gaza under siege, but shows some restraint in targeting the group's most senior leaders, at least as far as Hamas' civilian leadership is concerned. Hamas, on the other hand, keeps in check various other militant groups operating in Gaza, avoiding rocket fire that would cause large scale civilian casualties, or operations directly targeting IDF inside Israeli territory.
Things are clearly getting out of hand here, but it still doesn't mean that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning on launching a new war. Don't forget it's the election season in Israel: killing a Hamas commander through a safe precision strike looks good in the news, a ground invasion would be a more risky gamble.
Today's assassination was also a message to Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the Gulf state of Qatar (which has recently snatched Hamas from Iran's embrace) that there will be no let up in the blockade of Hamas-ruled territory.
Read in detail about Israeli-Hamas Conflict, with articles on the main players, with background, primers and FAQs on all the main players.
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