November 14, 2012 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
Hamas chief killed
- NEW: More Israeli air strikes are heard
- NEW: An Israeli spokesman calls the operation defensive after rocket attacks from Gaza
- A Hamas statement says the attacks open "the gates of hell" on Israel
- Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the head of Hamas' military wing, was killed in the first strike
Palestinian leaders immediately condemned the Israeli attacks as an escalation, with President Mahmoud Abbas calling for an emergency session of the Council of the League of Arab States to discuss what he called Israeli "aggression," the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported.
Hamas' military wing warned that Israelis had opened "the gates of hell on themselves."
Palestinian medical sources said nine people died in the air strikes, including a young girl, and 35 others were wounded, with 10 in serious condition. However, the health minister in Gaza, Mufid al-Mukhalalati, put the death toll at seven, including two young girls.
The dead included Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the popular and influential head of the Hamas military wing, and his son, the group said on its website.
At least nine Israeli strikes occurred in the day, and Hamas said there had been more than 10. As night fell, more air strikes could be heard, but details on the further attacks were not immediately available.
The Israeli operation -- which the military calls "Operation Pillar of Defense" -- came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned this week of pending retaliation by Israel for increased rocket attacks from Gaza.
"I would ask you, I'd ask any person around the planet: What would you do if your population was targeted day after day?" Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told CNN, later adding that "you have to see our operation as fundamentally defensive."