Peled called Rayyan "a senior leader for Hamas who called for renewed suicide attacks against Israel. He was personally involved in past suicide missions, including a double suicide attack at the Ashdod port in March 2004 that murdered 10 people. He even sent his own son on a suicide mission, when Ibrahim Nizar blew himself up in Elei Sinai, murdering two Israelis in June 2001."
Palestinians living in Jabaliya, a slum of 87,000 people in northern Gaza, viewed Rayyan as a Kalashnikov-slinging hero who led Hamas fighters there two years ago when Israeli ground forces moved into the area to push back rocket launch sites.
Rayyan also gained popularity by thumbing his nose at Israeli threats of bombing by encouraging people to stay in their homes and in some cases to go to the roofs to show pilots that they would kill women and children. The tactic forced Israel to call off some strikes.
Some Gazans say that in the last year Rayyan appeared to be sidelined as a major player in Hamas. His activity in the group had diminished and he was devoting more time to his religious studies.
Despite the Israeli attacks, Hamas continues to launch rockets aimed at Israeli towns. So far today at least 25 Hamas rockets have been fired at Israeli cities near Gaza. Since Saturday, four Israelis have died in rocket attacks and 72 have been wounded, including two women in Ashkelon.
In the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians have taken to the street including Hamas supporters, who were banned from holding demonstrations during the last 18 months by the rival Palestinian Fatah organization that rules the West Bank. In the town of Hebron, Hamas supporters threw stones and shoes at Palestinian security officials.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police were also reported in a few areas in Jerusalem, outside the Old City.
Sami Zyara reported from Gaza; Nasser Atta, Matthew McGarry, Bruno Nota and Dana Savir reported from Jerusalem; and Kirit Radia from Washington, D.C. Reuters contributed to this report.