Palestinian militants fire rockets at Israel after airstrikes on Gaza

  • Israeli airstrikes kill at least 10, wound dozens
  • Islamic Jihad Says It Will Hit Tel Aviv And Other Cities In Response
  • Israel says attacks target ‘concrete threat’
  • Sirens sound in Israeli cities as authorities warn of missiles

GAZA, Aug. 5 (Reuters) – Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of rockets at Israel on Friday in response to Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 10 people, including a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

As darkness fell, Israeli authorities said sirens had gone off in southern and central areas, while images broadcast by Israeli television stations appeared to show a number of missiles being shot down by air defense systems. In Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic center, witnesses said they could hear explosions, but there were no reports of sirens.

Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a similar ideology to Hamas, the Islamist movement that leads Gaza, said it fired more than 100 rockets on Friday at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv. The Israeli ambulance service said there were no reports of casualties.

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The strikes came just over a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 that killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel and crushed the economy of the blocked enclave.

Earlier, local health officials in Gaza said at least 10 people, including a five-year-old child, had been killed and 55 injured in the Israeli airstrikes, which followed days of escalating tensions after a Palestinian militant leader was arrested during the week.

An Israeli spokesman said the attacks killed Islamic Jihad commander Tayseer al-Jaabari and about 15 “terrorists”, but said the military had not taken any final casualties.

“Israel conducted a precise counter-terror operation against an imminent threat,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised statement pledging to do “whatever it takes to defend our people.”

“Our struggle is not with the people of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy that wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis,” he said.

The Israeli military said in a Twitter post that its warplanes targeted Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza that “seriously affect the organization’s ability to develop military capabilities”.

An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, described by the Israeli military as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, had been killed in the attacks that hit several targets around the densely populated swath.

Smoke billowed from a building where al-Jaabari had apparently died, and glass and debris littered the street amid the sound of ambulances racing to other locations.

As mourners prepared to hold funerals for the victims of the attacks, hundreds, some carrying Palestinian flags, marched through the streets of Gaza, as lines formed in front of bakeries and supermarkets as people stock up on food and staples.

The strikes came after Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, earlier this week during a raid on the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

It then closed all border crossings into Gaza and some nearby roads for fear of retaliation from the group, which has a stronghold in Gaza, further restricting Palestinian movement.

The Israeli military said Defense Minister Benny Gantz had approved plans to call up 25,000 reservists after the attacks, indicating Israel expected a prolonged confrontation.

‘NO RED LINES’

In an interview on Al Mayadeen television, a pro-Iranian Lebanese channel, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhala vowed retaliation for the strikes.

“There are no red lines in this battle and Tel Aviv will be under the missiles of the resistance, as well as all Israeli cities,” he said.

Hamas’s armed wing has issued a statement saying: “The blood of our people and our mujahideen will not be in vain.”

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, warned that the “dangerous” escalation would risk requiring more aid at a time when world resources were being stretched by other conflicts.

“Missile launches must be stopped immediately and I call on all parties to prevent further escalation,” he said.

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Islamic Jihad, one of a cluster of Palestinian militant groups, was founded in Gaza in the 1980s and opposes political dialogue with Israel. It is considered close to Iran and separate from Hamas, but generally works closely with the movement.

The Israeli military spokesman said authorities expected rocket attacks on central Israel, but said the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries were operational. He said special measures had been imposed in Israeli areas 80 kilometers around Gaza.

He said plans to let fuel trucks into Gaza to keep the area’s only power plant operational had been scrapped at the last minute when intelligence agencies picked up movements indicating attacks on Israeli targets were imminent.

The lack of fuel will lead to more power cuts in Gaza, where residents already have only 10 hours of electricity a day, and further hurt the economy from a region that depends on foreign aid and is still struggling to recover from previous wars.

A narrow strip of land home to some 2.3 million people in a 365 square kilometer (140 sq mi) stretch, Gaza has been a constant point of conflict since Hamas took control. Israel has fought five conflicts with Gaza since 2009.

The area has been under blockade ever since, with Israel and Egypt strictly restricting the movement of people and goods in and out.

“We have not yet been able to reconstruct what Israel destroyed a year ago. People had no chance to breathe, and here Israel is attacking again for no reason at all,” said Mansour Mohammad-Ahmed, 43, a farmer from central Gaza.

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Reporting by Nidal al Mughrabi, Henriette Chacar, James Mackenzie; Edited by Mark Potter, Frank Jack Daniel and Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al-Mughrabic

Thomson Reuters

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

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