A top Islamic Jihad terrorist in the Gaza Strip was killed Friday in a coordinated, pre-emptive strike by the Israeli military, a spokesman for the Israeli army told foreign media in a briefing.
Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said that "anti-tank squads had been on the move, and we took the initiative launching a coordinated strike as a preventative action."
The strikes come after several days of tension and threats from the terrorist group following the arrest by Israel on Monday of Bassem Saadi, the senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank.
According to reports, six sites were hit by fighter jets and armed drones on Friday afternoon, killing Tayseer Jabari, the senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad Commanding Officer of the terrorist group’s Northern Gaza Division, as well as the head of the anti-tank guided missile array and several terrorist squads in the midst of preparing attacks against Israel, the IDF said.
In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry reported that at least five others were killed in the strikes, including a 5-year-old girl.
A joint statement from Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the goal of the operation was to eliminate the "threat against the citizens of Israel and the civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as the targeting of terrorists and their sponsors."
"The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel," said Lapid. "Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know: we will find you."
In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, weighed in, noting that the mission was carried out "due to an attempted attack on Israeli civilians by Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
The ambassador said that "Israel was forced to commence a military operation with surgical strikes in order to thwart their rocket attacks from Gaza."
"Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a radical terror proxy of the Ayatollah regime in Iran and its clearly stated goal is the destruction of the state of Israel," Erdan continued, adding that "terrorists deliberately fire rockets at Israeli civilians committing war crimes."
The ambassador then said that "Israel expects the international community and the United Nations to stop making false immoral comparisons between a law-abiding democracy and radical terror organizations and to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens."
IDF spokesman Hecht indicated that the army had not yet finished its military operation and that "we assume there will be rocket attacks toward central Israel, but we don’t know yet."
He said that reserve soldiers had been mobilized from the north of the country and the Iron Dome defense system was now fully operational in the south and center of the country.
The tension comes more than a year after Israel fought a 14-day war with Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Palestinian enclave, drawing hundreds of rounds of rocket fire on towns and cities in southern Israel.
The army said that Jabari had carried out anti-tank missile attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers recently. "Jabari was a senior commander in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and held a number of positions in the terrorist organization, including as the Head of Operations," the army said in a statement. "He was entrusted in making many decisions inside the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization and was responsible for multiple attempted terror attacks against Israeli civilians."
"The anti-tank missile squads of the Islamic Jihad were trying to hit Israeli civilians for days, forcing thousands of Israelis behind shelter," Amir Avivi, CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum (IDSF) told Fox News Digital.
"Eventually, these terrorists left the IDF no choice but to launch a preemptive strike against the ground squads and the senior operators directing them," added Avivi, a former deputy commander of the Israeli army’s Gaza Division.
During the May 2021 round of fighting, the army said Jabari was responsible for firing "a large number of rockets at Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip and was responsible for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack in which a civilian was injured."
Fox News’ Talia Kaplan contributed to this report.