16 Palestinians, 5-year-old girl killed in Israeli attack on Gaza
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel launched an offensive in Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli towns on Saturday, following more than a year of calm along the border in an Israeli operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group.
Israel on Friday killed one of the group’s senior commanders in a daylight airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza City.
Israeli strikes have killed 16 Palestinians, including at least four Islamic Jihad fighters and a five-year-old girl, and wounded at least 110 others, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Islamic Jihad did not provide precise details of how many of its members were killed and signaled no immediate ceasefire. “Now is the time for resistance, not a ceasefire,” a group official told Reuters.
Overnight, the Israeli militACHI said it arrested 19 Islamic Jihad fighters in raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank targeting the group’s rocket production sites and launchers in Gaza.
On Saturday, Israel said it struck Islamic Jihad fighters preparing to launch rockets and militant positions. Additional bombings targeted five homes, witnesses said, sending huge plumes of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza City.
Palestinian militants fired at least 160 rockets along the border, setting off air raid sirens and sending people to bomb camps between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as far as the central Israeli city of Modi’in.
Islamic Jihad said it targeted Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s main international gateway, but the rocket fell short near Modin, 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, and the Civil Aviation Authority said runways had been repaired and the airport was operating normally.
According to the Israeli Ambulance Service, most of the missiles were intercepted and there were no reports of serious casualties.
Efforts are underway by Egypt, the UN and Qatar to end the conflict. And depending on whether Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls Gaza, chooses to join the fight, it will escalate.
The UN ambassador is concerned
About 2.3 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, where Israel and Egypt tightly control the movement of people and goods and impose a naval blockade, citing security concerns.
Israel halted fuel shipments into Gaza on Friday, shutting down the territory’s lone power plant, cutting power to about eight hours a day and prompting warnings from health officials that hospitals could be hit hard within days.
The border region has been quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was deeply concerned about the violence and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks.
The streets of Gaza were mostly deserted on Saturday afternoon. Debris, glass and furniture littered the street where top Islamic Jihad commander Taysir al-Jabari was killed.
Neighbor MACHIam Abu Khanima, 56, said the Israeli army did not issue a warning before the attack, as it had done in previous rounds of violence.