Though Hamas leaders didn’t march with the crowd, fearing Israel would use the opportunity to target them, thousands of supporters took to the streets during the funeral of Ahmed Jabari on Thursday.

Jabari, who Israeli officials referred to as a “mass murderer,” was killed in a joint operation by the Shin Bet and Israel Air Force on Wednesday in the first strike of operation Pillar of Defense, as the IDF targeted terrorist infrastructures and cells throughout the Strip.

The funeral procession left the Omari Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Gaza, where memorial services and prayers were held for the man who had been responsible for Hamas’s military wing. Some of Hamas’s officials and ministers were present at the prayers, using the crowd and mosque as reassurance and protection against an Israeli strike from the air.

Jabari was to be buried next to Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi, the founder and another senior Hamas leader, respectively, who were killed by the IDF, but to because their graves were close to the border with Israel he was buried in a different graveyard, Ma’ariv reported.

In the morning, crowds surrounded the vehicle carrying Jabari’s body from al-Shifa Hospital to his family home. They waved Hamas’s green flags, and some fired automatic weapons in the air.

For 10 years Jabari was the commander of the military wing of the organization. Though affiliated with Fatah when arrested by Israeli security forces in 1982, he had become a full member of rival group Hamas by the time he was released 13 years later.

Jabari was involved in bombings that claimed the lives of 59 Israeli citizens in 1996. After holding a number of positions and carrying out multiple attacks against Israel, he made a name for himself when, in June 2006, he sent a Hamas squad along with members of the Popular Resistance Committee and Army of Islam to tunnel into Israel. They killed two Israeli soldiers and took Gilad Shalit hostage in Gaza. Five years later, Shalit was released in return for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.