Israel strikes Gaza as Palestinians return rocket fire after attack that killed 15 including girl, 5

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Violence continued in Gaza and Israel today as the Palestinian territory was hit by more Israeli airstrikes before Tel Aviv was reportedly struck by rockets sent from Gaza.

Explosions were heard in southern Tel Aviv and Jaffa this afternoon as rockets fired from Gaza set off alarms in Israel’s largest city.

It came within minutes of an airstrike on a busy street in western Gaza today, which followed similar military action last night against Islamic Jihad terror leaders.

Thirteen militants were killed in the strikes last night, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed, with two civilians including a five-year-old girl slain.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi this afternoon met with Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ziyad Nakhaleh in Tehran. 

Alaa Kazhdum was carried through the streets by her father as crowds swelled in Gaza City earlier today.

Air raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv just after 6pm local time (3pm GMT), with a series of explosions in the city’s southern district and Jaffa reported on social media.

There were no immediate reports of casualties and at least three explosions, possibly caused by interceptions, were heard in the city, Reuters reported. 

IDF spokesperson Ran Kochav said the nation would conduct a ‘week of operations’ to root out Islamic Jihad terror chiefs from the Palestinian territory.

He said today: ‘The Islamic Jihad is a group without a leadership, and less well organized than the Gaza ruling Hamas

‘It sustained a major blow during last year’s 11 days of fighting, which was evident with its ability now, to fire rockets accurately.’

A fireball erupted at a building in western Gaza this afternoon after it was struck by the IDF

A fireball erupted at a building in western Gaza this afternoon after it was struck by the IDF

Palestinian children are pictured running away from an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City today. Thirteen militants and two civilians were reportedly killed in airstrikes last night

Palestinian children are pictured running away from an Israeli bombardment in Gaza City today. Thirteen militants and two civilians were reportedly killed in airstrikes last night

No casualties have yet been reported in the strike today, which Israel said was pre-warned

No casualties have yet been reported in the strike today, which Israel said was pre-warned

Within minutes of the Israeli strike, rockets were fired from Gaza to Tel Aviv, sounding sirens

Within minutes of the Israeli strike, rockets were fired from Gaza to Tel Aviv, sounding sirens

Alaa Kazhdum, five (left), was killed yesterday in the deadly Israeli strike on western Gaza.

Kazhdum's father carries her through the streets today after she was killed last night

Alaa Kazhdum, five (left), was killed yesterday in the deadly Israeli strike on western Gaza. Right: Kazhdum’s father carries her through the streets today

Israeli army forces claim more than 200 rockets have been fired from Gaza into the country since Friday night.

But they added some 95 per cent have been neutralised by the cutting-edge Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have appeared to stay on the sidelines of the conflict, keeping its intensity somewhat contained, for now.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller battles over the last 15 years at a staggering cost to the territory’s two million Palestinian residents.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of houses after an airstrike in Gaza City today

Palestinians inspect the rubble of houses after an airstrike in Gaza City today 

The airstrike in Gaza City killed at least 15 Palestinians. Pictured: Palestinians inspect the rubble of houses after the attack

The airstrike in Gaza City killed at least 15 Palestinians. Pictured: Palestinians inspect the rubble of houses after the attack

A mushroom cloud rises above Gaza City this afternoon after another Israeli airstrike

A mushroom cloud rises above Gaza City this afternoon after another Israeli airstrike

Shortly before noon, Israeli warplanes stepped up air strikes in Gaza.

After warning residents in phone calls, fighter jets dropped two bombs on the house of an Islamic Jihad member, flattening the west Gaza City two-storey structure and badly damaging surrounding homes.

Women and children rushed out of the area.

‘Warned us? They warned us with rockets and we fled without taking anything,’ said Huda Shamalakh, who lived next door.

She said 15 people lived in the targeted home.

Another air strike hit an Islamic jihad site nearby.

Gaza's Hamas rulers have appeared to stay on the sidelines of the conflict, keeping its intensity somewhat contained, for now. Children playing sport in an open space flee the bomb damage

Gaza’s Hamas rulers have appeared to stay on the sidelines of the conflict, keeping its intensity somewhat contained, for now. Children playing sport in an open space flee the bomb damage

The latest round of Israel-Gaza violence was sparked by the arrest this week of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank, part of a month-long Israeli military operation in the territory.

Citing a security threat, Israel then sealed roads around the Gaza Strip and on Friday killed the militant leader in a targeted strike.

A blast was heard in Gaza City, where smoke poured from the seventh floor of a tall building.

Video released by Israel’s military showed the strikes blowing up three guard towers with suspected militants in them.

In a nationally televised speech on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country launched the attacks based on ‘concrete threats’.

‘This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks – of any kind – from Gaza towards Israeli territory,’ Mr Lapid said.

PM Yair Lapid said: 'This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks - of any kind - from Gaza towards Israeli territory.' Pictured: Khan Yunis in Gaza is pictured today

PM Yair Lapid said: ‘This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks – of any kind – from Gaza towards Israeli territory.’ Pictured: Khan Yunis in Gaza is pictured today

‘Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who are trying to harm its civilians.’

‘Israel isn’t interested in a broader conflict in Gaza but will not shy away from one either,’ he added.

The violence poses an early test for Mr Lapid, who assumed the role of caretaker prime minister ahead of elections in November, when he hopes to keep the position.

Mr Lapid, a centrist former TV host and author, has experience in diplomacy having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but has thin security credentials.

A conflict with Gaza could burnish his standing and give him a boost as he faces off against former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who led the country during three of its four wars with Hamas.

Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new battle barely a year after the last war caused widespread devastation.

Israel's formidable and costly Iron Dome is said to have neutralised 95 per cent of rockets. It is pictured in action earlier today

Israel’s formidable and costly Iron Dome is said to have neutralised 95 per cent of rockets. It is pictured in action earlier today

There has been almost no reconstruction since then, and the isolated coastal territory is mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50%.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a five-year-old girl and two women were among 15 killed in Gaza, along with more than 80 wounded.

It did not differentiate between civilians and militants.

The Israeli military said early estimates were that around 15 fighters were killed.

Dozens were wounded.

Islamic Jihad said Taiseer al-Jabari, its commander for northern Gaza, was among the dead.

He had succeeded another militant killed in an air strike in 2019.

An Israeli military spokesman said the strikes were in response to an ‘imminent threat’ from two militant squads armed with anti-tank missiles.

The spokesman said al-Jabari was deliberately targeted and had been responsible for ‘multiple attacks’ on Israel.

Hundreds marched in a funeral procession for him and others who were killed, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for revenge.

Israeli media showed the skies above southern and central Israel lighting up with rockets and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.

It was not immediately clear how many rockets were launched, and there was no immediate word on any casualties on the Israeli side.

Overnight, Israel struck rocket launchers, rocket building sites and Islamic Jihad positions.

The UN special envoy to the region Tor Wennesland said: ‘The launching of rockets must cease immediately, and I call on all sides to avoid further escalation.’

Following the initial Israeli strikes, a few hundred people gathered outside the morgue at Gaza City’s main Shifa hospital.

Some went in to identify loved ones and emerged later in tears.

‘May God take revenge against spies,’ shouted one, referring to Palestinian informants who co-operate with Israel.

Defence minister 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 limits placed on activities in communities within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of the border.

Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border as it braced for a revenge attack after Monday’s arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, an Islamic Jihad leader, in a military raid in the occupied West Bank.

A teenage member of the group was killed in a gunbattle between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

Hamas seized power in the coastal strip from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

Its most recent war with Israel was in May 2021.

Tensions soared again earlier this year following a wave of attacks inside Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and tensions at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.

Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah, speaking to the Al-Mayadeen TV network from Iran, said ‘fighters of the Palestinian resistance have to stand together to confront this aggression’.

He said there would be ‘no red lines’ and blamed the violence on Israel.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said ‘the Israeli enemy, which started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it’.

Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas but largely shares its ideology.

Both groups oppose Israel’s existence and have carried out scores of deadly attacks over the years, including the firing of rockets into Israel.

It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory since the Hamas takeover.

Israel says the closure is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities.

Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

Dev

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