World · August 5, 2022

Israeli airstrikes kill Islamic Jihad leader

Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its top leaders, Tayseer Al Jabari, was killed in an Israeli attack. He was a commander of the Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the group said, and a member of its Military Council.

The Palestinian health ministry said at least 10 people were killed, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. Another 75 were injured, he said. Israel insists that most of the people killed were militants.

A CNN producer in Gaza saw doctors carry two bodies out of a building called the Palestine Tower that was hit in one of the strikes.

An Israeli military statement claims that the military operation – which has been called “Breaking Dawn” – was aimed at Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza.

The Israeli army said the main focus of its military action was a preemptive air strike on Al Jabari and attacks on two anti-tank squads that were on their way to carry out an attack on Israeli forces.

In a phone call with reporters Friday night, an Army spokesman said the two teams had been tracked down for several days before the Air Force carried out its operations, adding that Israel had been facing an imminent threat for several days as the two militant units came very close to the fence separating Gaza from Israel.

A “special situation” was declared in the areas around Gaza, in anticipation of possible rocket fire or other retaliatory attacks, the Israeli military said.

“The goal of this operation is the elimination of a concrete threat against Israeli citizens and civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as targeting terrorists and their sponsors,” said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. said in a joint statement.

“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel. Anyone trying to harm Israel should know: we will find you.” Lapid said.

Islamic Jihad has promised to respond. “All options are open, with all the means available to the Palestinian resistance, both in Gaza and outside,” spokesman Daoud Shehab told Al Jazeera. “The battlefield is open … The resistance will respond with full force. We won’t say how, but it’s inevitable.”

Palestinians gather on Friday near the site of an Israeli attack in Gaza City.
A Palestinian firefighter fights the fire amidst destruction following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 5, 2022.

Meanwhile, Gantz authorized the summoning of 25,000 reservists on Friday night, signaling Israel’s readiness for a full-scale escalation.

Those immediately called will strengthen the army’s southern command, which includes the area around Gaza, as well as units operating Israel’s air defense systems, among other deployments, the defense ministry said.

Sirens indicating the arrival of rockets were heard in the southern city of Sderot and other villages near Gaza late Friday evening. Previously, sirens sounded in Bat Yam, located a few kilometers south of Tel Aviv, and in Yavne, which is located between Tel Aviv and Ashdod. Israeli media reported that many rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, with no reports of casualties in Israel.

The Israeli military said it continues to target Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, including a rocket launch site near the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The military also said it was targeting weapons production facilities.

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Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, condemned the Israeli action. “The Israeli enemy, who initiated the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and take full responsibility,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Tor Wennesland, a senior United Nations official in the Middle East, said he was deeply concerned about the ongoing escalation between the two sides.

Referring to the killing of a five-year-old girl, Wennesland said that “there could be no justification for any attacks on civilians” and addressing the militants, he said that “the rocket firing must stop immediately and I call on all parties to avoid further escalation “.

The UN, along with Egypt, has often played a key intermediary role between Israel and Palestinian militants in restoring a ceasefire following the outbreak of hostilities.

Wennesland said the UN is “fully engaged with all concerned” to try to avoid further deterioration. But she added that “it is the responsibility of the parties to prevent this from happening”.

Friday’s attacks come after Israeli forces captured a senior Islamic Jihad commander, Bassam al-Saadi, during a Monday night raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

During that operation, a 17-year-old Palestinian linked to Islamic Jihad was shot dead in an exchange of gunshots with Israeli soldiers, according to the Israeli army. The Palestinian health ministry said he had been shot in the head by Israeli forces.

Saadi was one of two wanted terrorist suspects approved in that raid, Israel said. The Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said it was mobilizing its forces across the Palestinian territories in response.

The past few months have seen repeated Israeli operations in and around Jenin, after several deadly attacks inside Israel were carried out by Palestinian gunmen from the region. Thirty Palestinians have been killed in the raids since the beginning of the year, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.