Israeli and Gaza militants exchange fire after deadly attack


GAZA CITY, Gaza (AP) — Israeli jets struck militant targets in the Gaza Strip early Saturday, hours after a wave of airstrikes on the coastal enclave in southern Israel killed at least 11 people. Israeli jets attacked armed targets in the Gaza Strip, including a senior militant and a 5-year-old girl.

Fighting that began on Friday continued through the night with Israel’s dramatic targeted killing of a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander, bringing both sides closer to full-scale war.

But the region’s Hamas rulers appear to be standing idly by, temporarily reining in its intensity.Over the past 15 years, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller battles at staggering costs to the 2 million Palestinian inhabitants of the territory.

The latest round of Israel-Gaza violence was sparked by the arrest this week of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank as part of Israel’s month-long military campaign in the region. Citing security threats, Israel then blocked roads around the Gaza Strip and killed the militant leader in a targeted attack on Friday.

An explosion was heard in Gaza City, with smoke billowing from the seventh floor of a high-rise building. Video released by the Israeli military showed airstrikes blowing up three guard towers, among them suspected militants.

Israeli Prime Minister Yar Rapid said in a nationally televised address on Friday that the Israeli attack was based on a “specific threat.”

“This administration has a zero-tolerance policy toward any attempted attack — of any kind — from the Gaza Strip to Israeli territory,” Lapid said. “Israel will not sit idly by when someone tries to harm its civilians.”

“Israel is not interested in the wider conflict in Gaza, but will not shy away from it,” he added.

Violence poses early test for Lapid as caretaker prime minister He hopes to keep the job ahead of elections in November.

Rapid, a centrist former TV host and author who served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, has diplomatic experience but weak security credentials. The conflict with Gaza could boost his stature and get a boost from his standoff with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who is in the middle of a four-game clash with Hamas. Lead the country in three of the wars.

Hamas also faces a dilemma when deciding whether to join the new fight, just a year after the last war caused widespread destruction. Little has been rebuilt since then, with isolated coastal areas mired in poverty and unemployment hovering around 50%.

A 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were killed in Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said, without distinguishing between civilian and armed casualties. The Israeli military said early estimates were that about 15 fighters were killed. Dozens of people were injured.

Islamic Jihad said Taiseer al-Jabari, a commander in northern Gaza, was also among the dead. He succeeds another militant killed in an airstrike in 2019. This sparked a fierce battle between Israel and the militant group.

An Israeli military spokesman said the airstrike was in response to an “imminent threat” from two armed anti-tank missile squads. The spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters that Jabari was a deliberate target and was responsible for “multiple attacks” by Israel.

Hundreds of people held a funeral procession for him and the other victims, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for revenge.

Israeli media showed that the skies in southern and central Israel were illuminated by rockets and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. It was not immediately clear how many rockets were fired, and there were no immediate reports of Israeli casualties.

Overnight, Israel attacked rocket launchers, rocket manufacturing sites and Islamic Jihad positions. The military said it also arrested 19 Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank.

“The firing of rockets must be stopped immediately and I call on all parties to avoid further escalation,” said Torwensland, the UN envoy to the region.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the morgue at the main Shifa hospital in Gaza City after the initial strike in Israel. Some people went in to look for their relatives and later came out in tears.

“May God take revenge on the spies,” shouted one of them, referring to Palestinian informants working with Israel.

Defense Secretary Benny Gantz approved an order to call in 25,000 reservists if necessary, while the military declared an “extraordinary situation” on the domestic front, with schools closed and within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border community activities are restricted.

Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border after it arrested Islamic Jihad leader Bassam Saadi in a military attack on the occupied West Bank on Monday. Prepare for a retaliatory attack. A teenage member of the group has been killed in a gun battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Hamas seized power along the coast from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. The last war with Israel occurred in May 2021.Tensions spiked again earlier this year It comes after a wave of attacks inside Israel, almost daily military operations in the West Bank and tensions in the holy sites of Jerusalem. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005.

“The fighters of the Palestinian resistance must unite against this aggression,” Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah said in a speech to the Al-Mayadeen television network in Iran. He said there would be no “red lines” and blamed the violence in Israel.

Hamas spokesman Fazi Bahum 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 for it.”

Iran-backed Islamic Jihad smaller than Hamas but largely shares its ideologyBoth groups oppose the Israeli presence and have carried out dozens of deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets into Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, which Israel believes is responsible for all attacks from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a tight seal on the territory since Hamas took over. Israel says the shutdown is needed to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities. Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

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Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.



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