Israel rockets today: Airstrike launched into Gaza killing 10, including Jihadist leader, Palestine says

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel unleashed a spate of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Friday that have killed at least 10 people, including a senior fighter, and wounded dozens, according to Palestinian officials. Israel said it was targeting the Islamic Jihad militant group in response to an “imminent threat” following the arrest of another senior militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.

Palestinian militants launched rocket fire hours later as air raid sirens wailed in central and southern Israel, bringing the two sides closer to all-out war. Islamic Jihad claimed to have fired 100 rockets.

The militant Hamas rulers of Israel and Gaza have fought four wars and several minor battles over the past 15 years, which have cost the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents a tremendous price.

An explosion was heard in Gaza City where smoke billowed from the seventh floor of a tall building on Friday afternoon. A video released by the Israeli military showed attacks in which three watchtowers containing suspected militants were blown up.

In a nationwide televised address Friday night, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country launched the attacks on the basis of “specific threats.”

“This government has a zero-tolerance policy towards any attempted attack — of any kind — from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Lapid said. “Israel will not stand idly by when there are those who seek to harm its civilians.”

He added that “Israel is not interested in a major conflict in Gaza, but will not shy away from it either.”

The violence represents an early test for Lapid, who has assumed the role of acting prime minister ahead of November’s general election, in which he hopes to retain the position. He has experience in diplomacy, having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but his security credentials are tenuous.

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Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new struggle barely a year after the last war wreaked widespread havoc. Since then there has been almost no reconstruction and the isolated coastal area is riddled with poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50%.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were among those killed in the Gaza Strip, without distinguishing between civilian and militant casualties. The Israeli military said around 15 militants were killed, according to initial estimates.

Islamic Jihad said Taiseer al-Jabari, its commander for northern Gaza, was among those killed. He had succeeded another militant killed in an airstrike in 2019. Hundreds marched in a funeral procession for him and others killed, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for revenge.

Israeli media showed the skies over southern and central Israel lit up by missiles and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. An explosion was heard in Tel Aviv. It was not immediately clear how many rockets were fired, and there was no immediate information about casualties on the Israeli side.

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Israel attacked other targets Friday, including weapons manufacturing sites and Islamic Jihad positions.

UN special envoy for the region Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation” and expressed his sadness at the killing of the 5-year-old girl.

“The ongoing escalation is very dangerous,” he said. “The firing of missiles must cease immediately and I call on all sides to avoid further escalation.”

After the first Israeli attacks, several hundred people gathered outside the Shifa Hospital morgue in Gaza City. Some went in to identify loved ones and later reappeared in tears. “May God have vengeance on spies,” shouted one, referring to Palestinian whistleblowers working with Israel.

An Israeli military spokesman said the attacks were in response to an “imminent threat” posed by two militant squads armed with anti-tank missiles. The spokesman, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said al-Jabari was deliberately targeted and was responsible for “several attacks” on Israel.

Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz approved an order to call up 25,000 reserve soldiers if needed while the military announced a “special situation” on the home front, with schools closed and restricted activities in communities within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border.

Israel earlier this week closed roads around Gaza and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for a revenge attack after Monday’s arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, a leader of Islamic Jihad, in a military attack in the occupied West Bank. A teenage member of the group was killed in a shootout between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the militant group seized control of the coastal strip from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The last was in May 2021, and tensions rose again earlier this year after an almost daily spate of attacks in Israel, leading to military operations in the West Bank and tensions at the flashpoint of the holy site of Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah told Iran’s Al-Mayadeen TV channel that “fighters of the Palestinian resistance must stand together to confront this aggression.” He said there will be “no red lines” and blamed Israel for the violence.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “The Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and take full responsibility.”

Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas but largely shares Hamas’ ideology. Both groups oppose the existence of Israel and have carried out numerous deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets at Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel blames Hamas for all attacks from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory since the Hamas takeover. Israel says the shutdown is necessary to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities, while critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

Mohammed Abu Selmia, director of Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said hospitals are facing shortages after Israel imposed a full shutdown of the Gaza Strip earlier this week. He said there were enough supplies and essential medicines to keep hospitals supplied for five days in normal times, but with a new round of fighting “they could run out at any moment”.

Israel has canceled an expected fuel delivery for Gaza’s only power plant, which was due to shut down early Saturday if fuel does not reach the area. Even when the plant is operating at full capacity, Gazans still suffer daily power outages lasting several hours.

Earlier on Friday, a few hundred Israelis protested near the Gaza Strip to demand the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers being held by Hamas.

The protesters were led by the family of Hadar Goldin, who was killed along with Oron Shaul in the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas is still holding her remains, as well as two Israeli civilians who strayed into the Gaza Strip and are believed to be mentally ill, in hopes of exchanging them for some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.

Israel says there can be no major steps to lift the blockade until the remains of the soldiers and captured civilians are released. Israel and Hamas have held numerous Egyptian-brokered talks on a possible swap.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Israel rockets today: Airstrike launched into Gaza killing 10, including Jihadist leader, Palestine says

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