Israeli and Gaza militants fire after deadly strikes : NPR

Israeli and Gaza militants fire after deadly strikes : NPR

Rockets are fired into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza City, Friday, August 5, 2022. Palestinian officials said that at least 10 people, including a high-ranking militant, were killed and 55 injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Fatima Shbair/AP

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Fatima Shbair/AP

Rockets are fired into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza City, Friday, August 5, 2022. Palestinian officials said that at least 10 people, including a high-ranking militant, were killed and 55 injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes in Gaza.

Fatima Shbair/AP

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli jets pounded militant targets in Gaza as rockets rained down on southern Israel, killing at least 11 people, including a senior militant and a 5-year-old child, hours after a wave of Israeli airstrikes on the coastal enclave early Saturday. girl.

The fighting, which began on Friday when Israel dramatically killed a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, continued throughout the night, bringing the sides closer to full-scale war.

However, the Hamas leaders of the area have remained on the sidelines of the conflict, curbing its intensity for the time being. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller battles over the past 15 years at a staggering cost to the territory’s 2 million Palestinians.

The latest round of Israeli-Gaza violence resulted in the arrest this week of a senior leader of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, part of Israel’s month-long military operation in the area. Citing a security threat, Israel later sealed off roads around the Gaza Strip and killed a militant leader in a targeted strike on Friday.

An explosion was heard in Gaza City, where smoke poured from the 7th floor of a tall building. In a video released by the Israeli army, three guard towers containing suspected militants were blown up in the strikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a nationally televised speech on Friday that his country’s attacks were launched based on “concrete threats”.

“This government has a policy of zero tolerance for any attempt to attack Israeli territory from Gaza,” Lapid said. “Israel will not stop when there are those who try to harm civilians.”

“Israel is not interested in a large-scale conflict in Gaza, but it will not shy away from it either.” he added.

The violence is a preliminary test for Lapid, who has taken over as interim prime minister ahead of elections in November.

Lapid, a centrist former TV presenter and author, has experience in diplomacy, having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but lacks security credentials. The conflict with Gaza could burnish his position and give him a boost when he faces former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the security figure who led the country in three of its four wars with Hamas.

Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new battle a year after the last war caused widespread destruction. Since then, almost no reconstruction has taken place and the isolated coastal area remains mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50%.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were among the dead in Gaza, without distinguishing between civilian and militant casualties. According to initial estimates, the Israeli army said about 15 fighters were killed. There are dozens of wounded.

Islamic Jihad said its commander in northern Gaza, Taisir al-Jabari, was among the dead. He overcame another militant who was killed in an airstrike in 2019. This led to a fierce battle between Israel and the militant group.

An Israeli army spokesman said the strikes were in response to an “advanced threat” from two militant groups armed with anti-tank missiles. Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, the spokesman said al-Jabari was deliberately targeted and was responsible for “multiple attacks” against Israel.

Hundreds attended his funeral and those of the other slain, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for revenge.

Israeli media reported that the southern and central skies of Israel were lit up by missiles and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. It was not immediately known how many rockets were fired, and there were no immediate reports of casualties on the Israeli side.

During the night, Israel struck rocket launchers, rocket construction sites, and Islamic Jihad positions. The army also arrested 19 Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank.

Tor Vennesland, the UN’s special representative for the region, said: “The missile launch must stop immediately and I urge all parties to avoid further escalation.”

After the initial Israeli strikes, several hundred people gathered in front of the morgue in the main Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Some went inside to recognize their loved ones and later came out in tears.

“God take revenge on the spies,” shouted one, referring to Palestinian informants collaborating with Israel.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved an order to call up 25,000 reservists if needed as the military declared a “state of emergency” on the home front, closing schools and restricting activities in communities within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border.

Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border after Islamic Jihad leader Bassam al-Saadi was arrested in a military raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday. A teenage member of the group was killed in a shootout between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Hamas seized control of the coastal strip in 2007 from rival Palestinian forces. His last war with Israel was in May 2021. Tensions have risen again after a wave of attacks inside Israel earlier this year, daily hostilities and tensions in the West Bank. At the shining point in the holy place of Jerusalem. Israel withdrew its troops and immigrants from Gaza in 2005.

The leader of the Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhla, told the “Al-Mayadeen” TV channel from Iran: “The fighters of the Palestinian resistance must stand together against this aggression.” He said there would be no “red lines” and blamed Israel for the violence.

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

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas, but largely shares its ideology. Both groups oppose Israel’s existence and have carried out numerous deadly attacks on Israel over the years, including rocket attacks. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt continue a tight blockade on the area after capturing Hamas. Israel says the shutdown is necessary to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities. Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

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