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Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Friday in response to airstrikes that killed at least 10 people, including a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.
Health authorities in the enclave controlled by Hamas Islamists said 10 people have been killed by Israel’s bombardment, including a five-year-old girl, with 75 others injured.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the Jewish state was forced to launch a ‘pre-emptive counter-terror operation against an immediate threat’ posed by the Islamic Jihad group, following days of tensions along the Gaza border.
Islamic Jihad said the initial Israeli bombardment amounted to a ‘declaration of war’, before it unleashed a flurry of more than 100 rockets towards Israel.
As darkness fell, Israeli authorities said sirens had been sounded in southern and central areas, while images broadcast by Israeli television stations appeared to show a number of missiles being shot down by air defence systems.
In Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic centre, witnesses said they could hear booms but there were no reports of sirens.
Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a similar ideology to Hamas, the Islamist movement in charge of Gaza, said it had fired more than 100 rockets on Friday into Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv.
But Israel’s ambulance service said there were no reports of casualties on the Israeli side of the border, while its military said the operation in Gaza had killed 15 ‘terrorists’.
Israel’s military said Defence Minister Benny Gantz had approved plans to call up 25,000 reservists following the strikes, signalling that Israel expects an extended confrontation.
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel, in Gaza City, Friday
Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes today, killing at least 15 people, and triggering a barrage of retaliatory rocket fire from militants in the Palestinian enclave
Rescuers and firefighters put out a fire amid the destruction following an Israeli air strike on Gaza City, on August 5. The Israeli military said today it launched air strikes on Gaza
Palestinians react at a hospital following Israeli strikes in Gaza City August 5. Israeli forces have launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday killing at least eight Palestinians, including Taysir al-Jabari, a commander of the al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Casualties in Israeli airstrike on Gaza
A large crowd mourn 5 years old Alaa Abdullah Qaddoum, who was killed in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday
Five-year-old Alaa Kaddum had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her body was carried by her father at her funeral.
Hundreds of mourners gathered in Gaza City for the funerals of Jabari and others killed in the air strikes.
Israeli tanks were lined up along the border and the military said Thursday it was reinforcing its troops.
UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was ‘deeply concerned’, warning that the escalation was ‘very dangerous’.
The strikes came a little more than a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, which killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel and left the blockaded enclave’s economy shattered.
‘Israel carried out a precise counterterror operation against an immediate threat,’ Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised statement in which he pledged to do ‘whatever it takes to defend our people’.
‘Our fight is not with the people of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy that wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis,’ he said.
The Israeli military said in a Twitter post that its war planes targeted Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza that ‘severely affect the organisation’s ability to develop military capabilities.’
An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, whom the Israeli military described as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, had been killed in the strikes, which hit several targets around the densely populated strip.
Smoke rose from a building where al-Jaabari was apparently killed and glass and rubble were strewn across the street amid the sound of ambulances racing to other sites.
As mourners prepared to hold funerals for those killed in the attacks, hundreds, some holding Palestinian flags, marched through the streets of Gaza, while queues formed outside bakeries and supermarkets as people stocked up on food and staples.
Smoke and flames rise as Israeli airstrikes over Gaza Strip continue, in Khan Yunis, Gaza on August 5. The Israeli army said Friday that it had begun carrying out raids on some targets in the Gaza Strip
The strikes came a little more than a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, which killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel and left the blockaded enclave’s economy shattered
The Israeli military said in a Twitter post that its war planes targeted Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza that ‘severely affect the organisation’s ability to develop military capabilities’
Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets targeting Israel in response to earlier Israeli airstrikes in which, according to the Palestinian ministry of health, at least ten people were killed, including a child
Israel’s military said Defence Minister Benny Gantz had approved plans to call up 25,000 reservists following the strikes, signalling that Israel expected an extended confrontation
The strikes came after Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week
Streaks of light are seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel August 5
The strikes came after Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week.
It subsequently closed off all Gaza crossings and some nearby roads over fears of retaliation from the group, which has a stronghold in Gaza, further restricting Palestinian movement.
In an interview on Al Mayadeen television, a pro-Iranian Lebanese channel, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhala vowed retaliation for the strikes.
‘There are no red lines in this battle and Tel Aviv will fall under the rockets of resistance, as well as all Israeli cities,’ he said.
Hamas’ armed wing issued a statement saying: ‘The blood of our people and our mujahideen will not go in vain.’
Egypt, a historic broker between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, was seeking to mediate and may host an Islamic Jihad delegation later Saturday, Egyptian officials told AFP in Gaza.
Islamic Jihad, one of a cluster of Palestinian militant groups, was founded in Gaza in the 1980s and opposes political dialogue with Israel.
The Israeli military said today it launched air strikes on Gaza, which were witnessed by Palestinians in central Gaza City. Smoke rises from a building following an Israeli air strike
The damaged apartment of Taiseer al-Jabari the Islamic Jihad commander for northern Gaza, following an Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Friday
Palestinians pray next to the bodies of fighters of Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, during their funeral in Gaza City, 05 August 2022
Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. Palestinian officials say Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed several people, including a senior militant, and wounded 40 others
An Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter flies towards the border with Gaza Strip, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. Palestinian officials say Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed several people, including a senior militant, and wounded 40 others
Considered close to Iran, it is separate from Hamas but generally cooperates closely with the movement.
The Israeli military spokesperson said authorities expected there would be rocket attacks against the centre of Israel but said Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were operational.
He said special measures had been imposed in Israeli areas 80 kilometres around Gaza.
He said plans to allow fuel trucks into Gaza to keep the area’s sole power plant operational had been dropped at the last minute as intelligence picked up movements that indicated attacks on Israeli targets were imminent.
The lack of fuel is set to lead to more power cuts in Gaza, where residents already have just 10 hours of electricity a day, and further hit the economy of a region that depends on foreign aid and still struggles to recover from past wars.
A narrow strip of land where some 2.3million people live on a patch of 365 square kilometres, Gaza has been a constant point of conflict ever since Hamas took control.
The area has since been under blockade, with Israel and Egypt tightly restricting movement of people and goods in and out.
‘We have not yet been able to reconstruct what Israel had destroyed a year ago. People didn’t have the chance to breathe, and here Israel is attacking again without any reason,’ said Mansour Mohammad-Ahmed, 43, a farmer from central Gaza.
An Israeli army soldier aims his weapon during clashes against Israeli strikes in Gaza, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 5
A Palestinian throws stones at Israeli army soldiers during clashes against Israeli strikes in Gaza, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 5
Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of two of the victims killed earlier in an Israeli air strike, during their funeral in Gaza City, on August 5
Palestinians attend a protest against Israeli strikes in Gaza, in Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank August 5
Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May. Islamic Jihad is a separate group, aligned with Hamas, but that also acts independently.
A flare up with Islamic Jihad came in 2019, following Israel’s killing of Baha Abu al-Ata, Jabari’s predecessor.
The sides exchanged fire for several days without Hamas joining the fray.
Hamas’s moves amid the current violence could prove crucial in determining its severity, with the group facing pressure from some to maintain calm in order to improve economic conditions in the territory.
Gaza City resident Abdullah al-Arayshi said the situation was ‘very tense’.
‘The country is ravaged. We’ve had enough of wars. Our generation has lost its future,’ he told AFP.
Hamas said Israel has ‘committed a new crime for which it must pay the price’.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist organisations by much of the West.
Palestinians, including patients and those with Israeli work permits, have been prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, while the goods crossing has also been shut.
Gaza’s only power station is at risk of imminent outage due to a lack of fuel supplies through Israel, its manager warned on Thursday.