Israel has killed a senior militant commander in a rare targeted strike in Gaza, prompting a barrage of rocket fire from the besieged enclave and igniting fears of another war.

The Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad group confirmed the death of the commander, Bahaa Abu al-Ata, 42, and his wife Asma Mohammed, 39 at dawn. 

Shortly afterwards dozens of rockets rained down on Israel, with sirens blaring as far north as the country’s commercial capital Tel Aviv.

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The health ministry in Gaza later announced two more deaths: Mohammed Hamoda, 20, who was killed in a targeted strike while on his motorcycle and Adnan Zaki Ghannam who died later in the day. 

Islamic Jihad said Abu al-Ata was undergoing “a heroic act” when he was assassinated but did not elaborate. Its senior leader Ziad al-Nakhala added that the killing ”crossed all red lines”, announcing that the fighters ”are going to war”. 

The group also claimed Israel targeted the house of Islamic Jihad political leader Akram Al-Ajouri in Damascus, Syria, killing one of his sons overnight.

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World news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
World news in pictures

1/50 11 November 2019

A species of deer thought to be extinct, the chevrotain, has been spotted for the first time in 30 years in the wilds of Vietnam. The deer is around the size of a domestic cat

2/50 10 November 2019

The royal motorcade of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, under tight security, passes through a street in Tokyo. Thousands of people gathered for the rare open-top car parade featuring the newly enthroned Emperor

3/50 9 November 2019

People knock over a mock-up of the former Berlin Wall during a performance prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match Hertha BSC Berlin v RB Leipzig on the 30 anniversary of the fall off the wall

4/50 8 November 2019

Flames from an out of control bushfire from a nearby residential area in Harrington, northeast of Sydney. Australian firefighters warned they were in “uncharted territory” as they struggled to contain dozens of out-of-control bushfires across the east of the country

5/50 7 November 2019

Demonstrators shine lasers during a protest against Chile’s government in Santiago, the capital

6/50 6 November 2019

Activists from India’s main opposition Congress party shout slogans as they are stopped by police during a protest against what the activists say is economic slowdown in the country, in Guwahati, India

7/50 5 November 2019

Smoke rises from a fire in downtown Lagos, Nigeria. Firefighters worked hard to try and extinguish a fire at the Balogun market. Thick black smoke and flames shot from the five-story buildings as fire trucks attempted to get access

8/50 4 November 2019

Women run down a sand dune as they take part in the desert trek “Rose Trip Maroc” in the erg Chebbi near Merzouga. It is a female-oriented trek where teams of three must travel through the southern Moroccan Sahara desert with a compass, a map and a topographical reporter

9/50 3 November 2019

Riot police descend an escalator inside the City Plaza mall in Hong Kong after a bloody knife fight wounded six people there. A local pro-democracy politician had his ear bitten off during another chaotic day of political unrest in the city

10/50 2 November 2019

People participate in the celebration of the ‘muerteadas de Jalapa del Valle’, as part of the Day of the Dead in Mexico

11/50 1 November 2019

Firefighters work to control flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California

12/50 31 October 2019

Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, over the Vestrahorn mountain in the east of Iceland

13/50 30 October 2019

A model presents a creation at the show Heaven Gaia by Xiong Ying during the China Fashion Week in Beijing. The fashion event runs from 25 October to 2 November

14/50 29 October 2019

Hindu devotees collect rice as offerings on ‘Annakut’ or ‘Govardhan Puja’ festival at the Madan Mohan temple in Kolkata. People in large numbers gather at the temple to collect the rice offerings in the belief that it will keep them in good health and they’ll never face poverty or scarcity of food

15/50 28 October 2019

Authorities investigate after a Port Authority bus was caught in a sinkhole in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

16/50 27 October 2019

South Africa players celebrate after beating Wales in their Rugby World Cup semi-final match. The Springboks will face England in next Saturday’s final following fly-half Handre Pollard’s match-winning penalty four minutes from time. The match ended 19-16

17/50 26 October 2019

Participants from Thailand pose in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as they take part in the annual gay pride parade in Taipei. Some two hundred thousand revellers marched through Taipei in a riot of rainbow colours and celebration as Taiwan held its first pride parade since making history in Asia by legalising gay marriage

18/50 25 October 2019

A girl enjoys a ball bath as she is being photographed at the made-for-Instagram museum ‘Cali Dreams’ in Dusseldorf, Germany. No artworks are shown in this museum, rather each visitor himself becomes an artwork by staging himself in front of one of the 25 sceneries. Cali Dreams is initially open for three months. After this test phase, however, the museum is planned as a long-term project

19/50 24 October 2019

A fire lorry speeds towards a rampant wildfire near Geyserville, California

20/50 23 October 2019

Protesters facing Lebanese army soldiers wave national flags in the area of Jal al-Dib in the northern outskirts of Beirut. A week of unprecedented street protests against the political class showed no signs of abating, despite the army moving to reopen key roads. Protests were sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on WhatsApp and other messaging apps

21/50 22 October 2019

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to supporters beside his wife Sophie after the federal election at the Palais des Congres in Montreal. He managed to hold on to power, albeit of a minority government, in one of the most divisive elections in the country’s history

22/50 21 October 2019

A convoy of US vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq

23/50 20 October 2019

Japan players go over to thank their fans after South Africa beat them in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup. Makazole Mapimpi double ended the hosts’ dreams in Tokyo 3-26. The Springboks will now face Wales in the semi-finals for a place in the final

24/50 19 October 2019

Archaeologists remove the cover of an ancient painted coffin discovered at Al-Asasif Necropolis in the Vally of Kings in Luxor, Egypt

25/50 18 October 2019

A protester throws a tire on a fire to block the highway north of Beirut, Lebanon. Protesters, mainly civil activists, started demonstrating in the downtown area on 17 October, condemning proposed taxes in the 2020 budget. An unexpected addition to impose a daily fee for using WhatsApp calls caused outrage. However, according to the Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair, the charge will not make it through the government palace after the impact it has made on the streets

26/50 17 October 2019

Children watch as army tanks are transported on trucks in the outskirts of the town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border of Syria

27/50 16 October 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse amongst the first snow at Mouth Paektu

28/50 15 October 2019

Protesters create a burning barricade after the Supreme Court in Madrid handed lengthy prison sentences to nine of the detained Catalonian leaders for up to 13 years each

29/50 14 October 2019

Protestors light their torches during a peaceful rally in central Hong Kong’s business district. The protests that started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill have since snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy that was granted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997

30/50 13 October 2019

Japan players celebrate victory after beating Scotland 28-21 to reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first ever time. The hosts head coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to those who lost their lives in Typhoon Hagibis

31/50 12 October 2019

Surging waves generated by typhoon Hagibis hit the seashore in Mihama, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Hagibis is the strongest storm to hit in six decades and battered the country’s main island with torrential rain and violent winds
Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California

33/50 10 October 2019

People run to take cover after mortars fired from Syria, in Akcakale, Turkey. An Associated Press journalist said at least two government buildings were hit by the mortars in Sanliurfa province’s border town of Akcakale and at least two people were wounded

34/50 9 October 2019

Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting where at least two people were killed at multiple locations in Germany, including near a synagogue in the city of Halle

35/50 8 October 2019

This multi-exposure picture shows USA’s Simone Biles performing on the beam during the women’s team final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart

36/50 7 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists block an intersection in Melbourne, Australia

37/50 6 October 2019

Protesters hold smoke grenades as they gather in central Kiev to demand broader autonomy for separatist territories, part of a plan to end a war with Russian-backed fighters

38/50 5 October 2019

Anti-government protesters rush to an injured man during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq

39/50 4 October 2019

Footage of a hugely rare polka dot zebra has been captured in Kenya. The foal was photographed in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

40/50 3 October 2019

A devotee dressed as the Hindu deity Maha Kali performs during Navratri festival celebrations in Ajmer in Rajasthan state, India

41/50 2 October 2019

A gust of wind lifts the cassock of Pope Francis during the weekly general audience at St.Peter’s square in the Vatican

42/50 1 October 2019

Protesters clash with an Iraqi riot police vehicle during a demonstration against state corruption and poor services in Baghdad

43/50 30 September 2019

A student protester throws a burning stick at riot police officers during a clash in Jakarta, Indonesia

44/50 29 September 2019

An anti-government protester wearing a mask depicting U.S. President Donald Trump is pushed away by riot police during a demonstration at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, China

45/50 28 September 2019

A Japan fan smiles before the Japan v Ireland Rugby World Cup match in Shizuoka, Japan

46/50 27 September 2019

The Duke of Sussex walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa

47/50 26 September 2019

A policeman stands on a blocked road in Le Petit-Quevilly as smoke billows from a Lubrizol factory classified SEVESO high-threshold site. Residents of twelve towns including Rouen have been asked to stay at home after a fire broke out according to the prefect of Normandy

48/50 25 September 2019

Participants dressed in traditional attire pose for pictures during rehearsals for Garba, a folk dance, in preparations for the upcoming Navratri, a festival during which devotees worship the Hindu goddess Durga, in Ahmedabad, India

49/50 24 September 2019

A protester fires at riot police during university students’ protest outside the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta

50/50 23 September 2019

Russia’s Soyuz-FG booster rocket with the Soyuz MS-15 space ship that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) is transported from its hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The new Soyuz mission is scheduled on 25 September with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, US astronaut Jessica Meir and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri

1/50 11 November 2019

A species of deer thought to be extinct, the chevrotain, has been spotted for the first time in 30 years in the wilds of Vietnam. The deer is around the size of a domestic cat

2/50 10 November 2019

The royal motorcade of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, under tight security, passes through a street in Tokyo. Thousands of people gathered for the rare open-top car parade featuring the newly enthroned Emperor

3/50 9 November 2019

People knock over a mock-up of the former Berlin Wall during a performance prior to the German first division Bundesliga football match Hertha BSC Berlin v RB Leipzig on the 30 anniversary of the fall off the wall

4/50 8 November 2019

Flames from an out of control bushfire from a nearby residential area in Harrington, northeast of Sydney. Australian firefighters warned they were in “uncharted territory” as they struggled to contain dozens of out-of-control bushfires across the east of the country

5/50 7 November 2019

Demonstrators shine lasers during a protest against Chile’s government in Santiago, the capital

6/50 6 November 2019

Activists from India’s main opposition Congress party shout slogans as they are stopped by police during a protest against what the activists say is economic slowdown in the country, in Guwahati, India

7/50 5 November 2019

Smoke rises from a fire in downtown Lagos, Nigeria. Firefighters worked hard to try and extinguish a fire at the Balogun market. Thick black smoke and flames shot from the five-story buildings as fire trucks attempted to get access

8/50 4 November 2019

Women run down a sand dune as they take part in the desert trek “Rose Trip Maroc” in the erg Chebbi near Merzouga. It is a female-oriented trek where teams of three must travel through the southern Moroccan Sahara desert with a compass, a map and a topographical reporter

9/50 3 November 2019

Riot police descend an escalator inside the City Plaza mall in Hong Kong after a bloody knife fight wounded six people there. A local pro-democracy politician had his ear bitten off during another chaotic day of political unrest in the city

10/50 2 November 2019

People participate in the celebration of the ‘muerteadas de Jalapa del Valle’, as part of the Day of the Dead in Mexico

11/50 1 November 2019

Firefighters work to control flames from a backfire during the Maria fire in Santa Paula, California

12/50 31 October 2019

Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, over the Vestrahorn mountain in the east of Iceland

13/50 30 October 2019

A model presents a creation at the show Heaven Gaia by Xiong Ying during the China Fashion Week in Beijing. The fashion event runs from 25 October to 2 November

14/50 29 October 2019

Hindu devotees collect rice as offerings on ‘Annakut’ or ‘Govardhan Puja’ festival at the Madan Mohan temple in Kolkata. People in large numbers gather at the temple to collect the rice offerings in the belief that it will keep them in good health and they’ll never face poverty or scarcity of food

15/50 28 October 2019

Authorities investigate after a Port Authority bus was caught in a sinkhole in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

16/50 27 October 2019

South Africa players celebrate after beating Wales in their Rugby World Cup semi-final match. The Springboks will face England in next Saturday’s final following fly-half Handre Pollard’s match-winning penalty four minutes from time. The match ended 19-16

17/50 26 October 2019

Participants from Thailand pose in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall as they take part in the annual gay pride parade in Taipei. Some two hundred thousand revellers marched through Taipei in a riot of rainbow colours and celebration as Taiwan held its first pride parade since making history in Asia by legalising gay marriage

18/50 25 October 2019

A girl enjoys a ball bath as she is being photographed at the made-for-Instagram museum ‘Cali Dreams’ in Dusseldorf, Germany. No artworks are shown in this museum, rather each visitor himself becomes an artwork by staging himself in front of one of the 25 sceneries. Cali Dreams is initially open for three months. After this test phase, however, the museum is planned as a long-term project

19/50 24 October 2019

A fire lorry speeds towards a rampant wildfire near Geyserville, California

20/50 23 October 2019

Protesters facing Lebanese army soldiers wave national flags in the area of Jal al-Dib in the northern outskirts of Beirut. A week of unprecedented street protests against the political class showed no signs of abating, despite the army moving to reopen key roads. Protests were sparked on October 17 by a proposed tax on WhatsApp and other messaging apps

21/50 22 October 2019

Liberal leader and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves to supporters beside his wife Sophie after the federal election at the Palais des Congres in Montreal. He managed to hold on to power, albeit of a minority government, in one of the most divisive elections in the country’s history

22/50 21 October 2019

A convoy of US vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq

23/50 20 October 2019

Japan players go over to thank their fans after South Africa beat them in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup. Makazole Mapimpi double ended the hosts’ dreams in Tokyo 3-26. The Springboks will now face Wales in the semi-finals for a place in the final

24/50 19 October 2019

Archaeologists remove the cover of an ancient painted coffin discovered at Al-Asasif Necropolis in the Vally of Kings in Luxor, Egypt

25/50 18 October 2019

A protester throws a tire on a fire to block the highway north of Beirut, Lebanon. Protesters, mainly civil activists, started demonstrating in the downtown area on 17 October, condemning proposed taxes in the 2020 budget. An unexpected addition to impose a daily fee for using WhatsApp calls caused outrage. However, according to the Telecommunications Minister Mohamed Choucair, the charge will not make it through the government palace after the impact it has made on the streets

26/50 17 October 2019

Children watch as army tanks are transported on trucks in the outskirts of the town of Akcakale, in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border of Syria

27/50 16 October 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse amongst the first snow at Mouth Paektu

28/50 15 October 2019

Protesters create a burning barricade after the Supreme Court in Madrid handed lengthy prison sentences to nine of the detained Catalonian leaders for up to 13 years each

29/50 14 October 2019

Protestors light their torches during a peaceful rally in central Hong Kong’s business district. The protests that started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill have since snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy that was granted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997

30/50 13 October 2019

Japan players celebrate victory after beating Scotland 28-21 to reach the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first ever time. The hosts head coach Jamie Joseph paid tribute to those who lost their lives in Typhoon Hagibis

31/50 12 October 2019

Surging waves generated by typhoon Hagibis hit the seashore in Mihama, Mie Prefecture, Japan. Hagibis is the strongest storm to hit in six decades and battered the country’s main island with torrential rain and violent winds
Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Sylmar, California

33/50 10 October 2019

People run to take cover after mortars fired from Syria, in Akcakale, Turkey. An Associated Press journalist said at least two government buildings were hit by the mortars in Sanliurfa province’s border town of Akcakale and at least two people were wounded

34/50 9 October 2019

Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting where at least two people were killed at multiple locations in Germany, including near a synagogue in the city of Halle

35/50 8 October 2019

This multi-exposure picture shows USA’s Simone Biles performing on the beam during the women’s team final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart

36/50 7 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion activists block an intersection in Melbourne, Australia

37/50 6 October 2019

Protesters hold smoke grenades as they gather in central Kiev to demand broader autonomy for separatist territories, part of a plan to end a war with Russian-backed fighters

38/50 5 October 2019

Anti-government protesters rush to an injured man during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq

39/50 4 October 2019

Footage of a hugely rare polka dot zebra has been captured in Kenya. The foal was photographed in the Maasai Mara National Reserve

40/50 3 October 2019

A devotee dressed as the Hindu deity Maha Kali performs during Navratri festival celebrations in Ajmer in Rajasthan state, India

41/50 2 October 2019

A gust of wind lifts the cassock of Pope Francis during the weekly general audience at St.Peter’s square in the Vatican

42/50 1 October 2019

Protesters clash with an Iraqi riot police vehicle during a demonstration against state corruption and poor services in Baghdad

43/50 30 September 2019

A student protester throws a burning stick at riot police officers during a clash in Jakarta, Indonesia

44/50 29 September 2019

An anti-government protester wearing a mask depicting U.S. President Donald Trump is pushed away by riot police during a demonstration at Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong, China

45/50 28 September 2019

A Japan fan smiles before the Japan v Ireland Rugby World Cup match in Shizuoka, Japan

46/50 27 September 2019

The Duke of Sussex walks through a minefield in Dirico, Angola, during a visit to see the work of landmine clearance charity the Halo Trust, on day five of the royal tour of Africa

47/50 26 September 2019

A policeman stands on a blocked road in Le Petit-Quevilly as smoke billows from a Lubrizol factory classified SEVESO high-threshold site. Residents of twelve towns including Rouen have been asked to stay at home after a fire broke out according to the prefect of Normandy

48/50 25 September 2019

Participants dressed in traditional attire pose for pictures during rehearsals for Garba, a folk dance, in preparations for the upcoming Navratri, a festival during which devotees worship the Hindu goddess Durga, in Ahmedabad, India

49/50 24 September 2019

A protester fires at riot police during university students’ protest outside the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta

50/50 23 September 2019

Russia’s Soyuz-FG booster rocket with the Soyuz MS-15 space ship that will carry new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) is transported from its hangar to the launch pad at the Russian leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The new Soyuz mission is scheduled on 25 September with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, US astronaut Jessica Meir and United Arab Emirates astronaut Hazza Al Mansouri

Syrian state media earlier reported that at least two people were killed and six wounded in an attack in the early hours that targeted a building in the Syrian capital. 

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called al-Ata, an “arch-terrorist, was the main generator of terrorism from the Gaza Strip.”

“He was in the midst of plotting additional attacks these very days,” Mr Netanyahu said, adding that the decision to target the leader was taken 10 days prior to the strike. “He was a ticking bomb,” the premier added. 

Military spokesman Lt Col Jonathan Conricus said fighter jets conducted a dawn “surgical strike” on a building in Shajaiya, northern Gaza, against the leader who they believed was planning an imminent attack on Israel.

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It marked Israel’s first targeted killing in the Strip since May, when they took out Hamid Abdul Khudri, an alleged financier for Gaza’s militant group Hamas, in a missile attack on his car.

“At approximately 4am, we conducted a surgical strike and … [were] able to take care of an immediate threat, a ticking bomb, conducting a pre-emptive strike aimed to kill a senior military commander … Bahaa, Abu al-Ata,” he told reporters.

“We have intelligence he was trying to conduct an attack in the coming days. A combination of sniper, IEDs and rocket fire aimed at Israeli troops possibly Israeli civilians,” he added.

Lt Col Conricus confirmed that the military had deployed additional tactical forces to bolster their defences against a possible ground attack.

He said that while Israel had no plans to resume a programme of targeted killings, the flare-up had “the hallmarks of an extended event.”

In line with Israeli military policy, he would not comment on the Damascus airstrikes.

The military later confirmed that it had begun launching airstrikes against “Islamic Jihad targets” including a targeted strike in northern Gaza against two fighters. 

The airstrikes come at a tense time politically for Israel, as Mr Netanyahu leads a caretaker government after two inconclusive elections. 

While many in Israel welcomed the action, some political opponents accused the leader of using the Gaza strike to win support and “save his own skin” after he failed to form a broad coalition government.

Palestinians inspect the damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata afther an Israeli attack in Gaza city (AFP/Getty)

His main rival former army chief Benny Gantz, who supports the strike, currently has the mandate to build a ruling coalition and has been negotiating with party allies this week.

“To save his own skin, Netanyahu turns to the only thing he can do: killing, destruction and warmongering,” tweeted Ofer Cassif, a parliamentarian with the Joint List.

“The bloodshed is on his head,” he added.

The Israeli army denied the timing was political. 

The killing of the senior Islamic Jihad commander poses a tricky challenge for Hamas, the militant group that runs Gaza and has tried to maintain a fragile truce with Israel over the last few years.  

After the attack Hamas released a statement saying Israel “bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation” and pledging that Ata’s death “will not go unpunished”.

Islamic Jihad shares Hamas’s ideological commitment to destroy Israel. But unlike Hamas, it has often fought against Egyptian-led efforts to forge ceasefires with the Israelis.

Many of Gaza’s nearly 2 million-strong population braced for further Israeli airstrikes with some civilians telling The Independent they were out buying supplies in preparation for an extended campaign.

Meanwhile, major border entry points into Gaza from Israel, including Erez passenger terminal and Kerem Shalom goods crossing, have all been closed, further piling pressure on the population.

Israel confirmed it limited Gaza’s fishing zone to six nautical miles.

In Israel, where local media reported at least one home has taken a direct hit from rocket fire, schools in the southern and central districts were closed for the first time since the war with Gaza in 2014. 

Non-essential work near Gaza has also been cancelled and bomb shelters opened. Videos were shared showing a rocket hitting a road in southern Israel, narrowly missing traffic. 

Over the last year, militants in Gaza and Israel’s military have teetered on the cusp of war with multiple serious cross border flare-ups, triggered in part by the start of Great March of Return protests in the 25-mile-long enclave. 

Since the Gaza rallies began in March last year, much of them triggered by a 12-year-long Israeli and Egyptian siege on the Strip, nearly 270 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more wounded by Israeli troops. 

Israel said Palestinians have repeatedly attacked the border zone and threatened citizens in southern Israel, by launching firebombs and kites tied with explosive devices.