At least eight people have been killed after Israeli forces attacked targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian health officials said on Friday.
A 5-year-old child was among the dead and 44 people were injured in the strike, officials added. Palestinian officials claimed one of the dead was a senior militant.
Israel said it targeted Islamic Jihad and the attack came after tensions rose after the arrest of a senior militant, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.
“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip to set an agenda and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip,” Prime Minister Yar Rapid said in a statement.
“Anyone trying to harm Israel should know: we will find you.”
Israel said it targeted militants in an operation called “Breaking Dawn.” It also declared an “extraordinary situation” in the country, with schools closed and other activities restricted in communities within 50 miles of the border.
The strike threatens to spark another war in the region, ruled by the Islamist militant group Hamas and home to some 2 million Palestinians. The assassination of a senior militant could be hit by rockets from Gaza, bringing the region closer to full-scale war.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement that it would seek revenge for the attack.
“The enemy has begun a war against our people and us, and we will defend ourselves and our people,” it said.
The movement’s top commander, Tayseer al-Jaabari, has been killed, officials said.
A spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry confirmed there had been multiple casualties and a state of emergency had been declared. Television footage showed black smoke rising from the roof of a building in the densely populated area.
In the 15 years since the militant group seized power from rival Palestinian forces along the coast, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes.
The most recent was in May 2021.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said on the al-Mayadeen television network from Iran: “We are starting a fight and the fighters of the Palestinian resistance must unite against this aggression”.
He said there would be no “red lines” in the confrontation and blamed Israel for the violence.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “The Israeli enemy has begun to escalate and commit new crimes against the Gaza Strip, for which the price must be paid and full responsibility”.
Islamic Jihad, which opposes Israel’s presence, has been carrying out attacks for years, including firing rockets into southern Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, which Israel believes is responsible for all attacks from Gaza.