Israel killed the top military leader for the Islamist group Hamas in a bombing of the Gaza Strip.

The strategic missile strike took place on Wednesday, marking the biggest rise in attacks between the militants and Israel in the last few years.

A spokesperson for Hamas confirmed that Ahmed Al-Jaabari, the 52-year-old military leader of the Islamist group, was killed in the attack.

Jaabari was driving two associates when his car was struck by a missile that claimed the lives of nine other people, including a young girl.

Israel confirmed they were responsible for the missile strike and warned of more attacks in the near future.

"This is an operation against terror targets of different organizations in Gaza," military spokesman Avital Leibovitch said as reported by Reuters. Leibovitch added that Jaabari had "a lot of blood on his hands".

Hamas has called for revenge against Israel for the attacks and the occupation of the Gaza Strip.

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesperson for the Islamist group, told Aqsa TV that Israel had "declared war and will pay a heavy price for that."

Jabari has headed the military wing of Hamas since his predecessor Muhammad Deif was severely wounded in an attempted assassination in 2003. Israel attempted to kill Jabari the following year in an air strike on his home that killed one of his sons and three other family members.

According to the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet, Jaabari was crucial to Hamas' domination of Gaza when the group took over the rival Fatah movement in 2007.

Jaabari was also linked to the 2006 capture of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit who was returned in a prisoner exchange five years later by the military commander.

Tensions between Israel and Hamas hit a high during a conflict in 2008-2009 which claimed the lives of around 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

Both Syria and Iran have supported Hamas in its struggle against Israel who has blockaded the Gaza Strip in an effort to stop illegal arms from reaching the Islamist group.