Airstrikes and rocket fire push Israel and Gaza into second day of fighting

  • Fourteen dead, at least 110 injured – Palestinian Ministry of Health
  • At least 160 rockets fired at Israel-military
  • Israel killed the commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Friday

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Israel struck in Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli towns on Saturday after an Israeli operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group ended more than a year of relative calm along the border.

Israel killed one of the group’s senior commanders in a surprise daytime airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza City on Friday, which unleashed volleys of rockets in response. Read more

On Saturday, Israel said it struck Islamic Jihad militants preparing to launch rockets and militant posts. Further shelling targeted five houses, witnesses said, sending huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as the blasts rocked Gaza City.

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Palestinian militants fired at least 160 rockets across the border, setting off air raid sirens and sending people running to bomb shelters in the central Israeli town of Modiin, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad said it had targeted Israel’s main international gateway, Ben-Gurion Airport, but the rocket landed near Modiin, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, and the Security Authority Civil Aviation said the airport was operating as usual with adjusted flight routes.

Most of the missiles were intercepted and no serious casualties were reported, according to the Israel Ambulance Service.

Egyptian, UN and Qatari efforts to end the fighting were ongoing. Further escalation would largely depend on whether Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, decides to join the fighting.

Israeli strikes killed 14 Palestinians, including at least four other Islamic Jihad militants and a child, and injured at least 110 people, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Islamic Jihad did not provide specific details on the number of its operatives killed and did not signal any immediate ceasefire. “Now is the time for resistance, not a truce,” a group official told Reuters.

Overnight, the Israeli military said it apprehended 19 Islamic Jihad militants in raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as they targeted the group’s rocket manufacturing sites and launchers in Gaza.

THE CONCERNED UNITED NATIONS ENVOY

Around 2.3 million Palestinians are crammed into Gaza’s narrow coastal strip, with Israel and Egypt severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade , citing security concerns.

Israel halted the planned transport of fuel to Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the territory’s only power plant and reducing electricity to about 8 hours a day and drawing warnings from health officials that the hospitals would be badly affected within days.

The border has been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 dead 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 largely deserted on Saturday afternoon. At the site where Islamic Jihad commander-in-chief Tayseer al-Jaabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture littered the street.

A neighbour, Mariam Abu Ghanima, 56, said the Israeli army did not issue a warning before the attack as it had during previous episodes of violence.

An army spokesman said the force made efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the surprise attack, which used precision means to target a specific floor of the building.

Israel has imposed special security measures in its southern territories near Gaza and is preparing to call up some 25,000 troops, according to Army Radio, and the streets of towns near the border were empty.

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, prompting threats of reprisals from the group.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Friday’s strikes thwarted an immediate and concrete attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist organization by the West.

Some Israeli political analysts said the military operation provided Lapid with an opportunity to boost his security credentials ahead of the Nov. 1 election.

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Written by Maayan Lubell; edited by Robert Birsel and Jason Neely

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

Senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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