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Israeli Bombings on Gaza Kill 10, Including Top Militant!
Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes Friday on Gaza, killing at least 10 people, including a senior militant, according to Palestinian officials. Israel said it targeted the Islamic Jihad militant group in response to an “imminent threat” following the recent arrest of another senior militant.
Hours later, militant Palestinians fired a barrage of rockets while air raid sirens went off in Israel. This brought the two sides closer to another all-out war. Islamic Jihad said that they had shot off 100 rockets.
In the last 15 years, Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have fought four wars and many smaller battles. These wars and battles have cost Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents a lot of money.
In Gaza City, there was a loud explosion, and smoke came out of the seventh floor of a tall building. Israel’s military showed on video how the strikes blew up three guard towers where militants were thought to be hiding.
In a nationally televised speech, 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,” Lapid said. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who are trying to harm its civilians.”
He also said, “Israel doesn’t want a bigger war in Gaza, but it won’t try to avoid one, either.”
The violence poses an early test for Lapid, who assumed the role of caretaker prime minister ahead of elections in November when he hopes to keep the position. He has experience in diplomacy, having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but his security credentials are thin.
Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new battle barely a year after the last war caused widespread devastation. 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 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were among those killed in Gaza, without differentiating between civilian and militant casualties. The Israeli military said early estimates were that around 15 fighters were killed. Dozens of people 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 airstrike 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, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, 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 news showed that rockets and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system lit up the sky over southern and central Israel. There was a loud noise heard in Tel Aviv.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many rockets were launched, and there was no immediate word on any casualties on the Israeli side.
Israel kept hitting other places Friday, like places where weapons are made and Islamic Jihad positions.
The U.N. special envoy to the region, Tor Wennesland, said he was “deeply concerned.”
“The launching of rockets must cease immediately, and I call on all sides to avoid further escalation,” he said.
After the first Israeli attacks, a few hundred people gathered in front of the morgue at the main Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Some people went in to find loved ones and came out crying.
“May God take revenge against spies,” shouted one, referring to Palestinian informants who cooperate with Israel.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz gave the go-ahead to call up 25,000 reserve soldiers if they are needed. At the same time, the military declared a “special situation” at home, closing schools and limiting activities in towns within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border.
This week, Israel shut down the roads around Gaza and sent more troops to the border in case there was a revenge attack for the arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader on Monday. Bassam al-Saadi was taken into custody in a military raid in the occupied West Bank. During a gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants, a teenager in the group was killed.
In 2007, Hamas took power in the coastal strip from other Palestinian groups. Its last war with Israel was in May 2021, and tensions rose again earlier this year after a wave of attacks inside Israel, almost daily military operations in the West Bank, and tensions at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah, speaking to 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.”
Islamic Jihad is not as big as Hamas, but it has a lot of the same ideas. Both groups don’t want Israel to exist and have killed a lot of people over the years by doing things like firing rockets at Israel. No one knows how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, but Israel blames Hamas for all attacks that come 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, while critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.
Mohammed Abu Selmia, director of the Shifa hospital, said hospitals faced shortages after Israel imposed a full closure on Gaza earlier this week. He said there were enough supplies and essential drugs to sustain hospitals for five days in normal times, but that with a new round of fighting underway, “they may run out at any moment.”
Earlier on Friday, about 200 Israelis held a protest near the Gaza Strip to ask Hamas to give back the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
The family of Hadar Goldin, who died in the 2014 Gaza war along with Oron Shaul, was in charge of the protesters. Hamas still has their bodies and two Israeli civilians who wandered into Gaza and are thought to be mentally ill in custody. They want to trade them for some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners that Israel is holding.
Israel says there can be no major moves toward lifting the blockade until the soldiers’ remains and captive civilians are released. Israel and Hamas have held numerous rounds of Egyptian-mediated talks on a possible swap.
Krauss reported from Ottawa, Ontario. Associated Press reporter Ariel Schalit in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, Israel, and Tia Goldenberg in Tel Aviv, Israel, contributed to this report.