Extra

Airstrikes, rocket attacks push Israel, Gaza into second day of fighting

Written by Javed Iqbal

  • Fourteen killed, at least 110 injured – Palestinian Ministry of Health
  • At least 160 rockets fired at Israel – military
  • Israel killed the Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza on Friday

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Israel struck Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli towns on Saturday after an Israeli operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group ended more than a year of relative calm along the border.

Israel killed one of the group’s top commanders on Friday in a surprise daytime airstrike on a Gaza City high-rise, which drew volleys of rockets in response. Read more

On Saturday, Israel said it struck Islamic Jihad militants preparing to launch rockets and militant positions. Additional bombings targeted five houses, witnesses said, sending huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza City.

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Palestinian militants fired at least 160 rockets across the border, setting off air raid sirens and sending people running to bomb shelters as far as the central Israeli city of Modiin, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad said it had targeted Israel’s main international gateway, Ben Gurion Airport, but the rocket fell short near Modiin, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, and the Civil Aviation Authority said the airport was operating as normal with flight routes adjusted .

Most of the missiles were intercepted and there were no reports of serious casualties, according to the Israeli Ambulance Service.

Efforts by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar to end the fighting were underway. Further escalation will largely depend on whether Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, chooses to join the fighting.

The Israeli strikes have killed 14 Palestinians, including at least four more Islamic Jihad militants and a child, and wounded at least 110 people, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Islamic Jihad did not give precise details of how many of its members had been killed and signaled no immediate ceasefire. “The time is now for resistance, not a ceasefire,” a group official told Reuters.

Overnight, the Israeli military said it had apprehended 19 Islamic Jihad militants in raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank while targeting the group’s rocket manufacturing sites and launch pads in Gaza.

UN ISSUED CONCERNED

About 2.3 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, where Israel and Egypt tightly restrict the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and impose a naval blockade, citing security concerns.

Israel halted scheduled shipments of fuel to Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the area’s lone power station and cutting electricity to about eight hours a day, and health officials warning that hospitals would be severely affected within days.

The border had been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was deeply concerned by the violence, and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attack.

Gaza’s streets were largely deserted Saturday afternoon. At the site where Islamic Jihad commander-in-chief Tayseer al-Jaabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture were strewn along the street.

A neighbor, Mariam Abu Ghanima, 56, said the Israeli military did not issue a warning before the attack, as it has done in previous rounds of violence.

A military spokesman said the force had made efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the surprise attack, which had used precise means to target a specific floor of the building.

Israel has imposed special security measures in its southern areas near Gaza and is preparing to call in about 25,000 military personnel, according to Army Radio, and streets in towns near the border were empty.

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested a commander of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, drawing threats of retaliation from the group.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Friday’s attack prevented an immediate and concrete attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by the West.

Some Israeli political analysts said the military operation gave Lapid an opportunity to bolster his security credentials ahead of a Nov. 1 election.

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Author: Maayan Lubell; editing by Robert Birsel and Jason Neely

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al-Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

A senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

About the author

Javed Iqbal

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