At least eight people, including a senior member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), have been killed as a result of Israeli airstrikes, officials said.
On Friday, an explosion was heard in Gaza City and smoke billowed from the seventh floor of a high-rise building.
The Palestinian The health ministry said 40 people were injured, and a senior Islamic Jihad commander and a five-year-old child were among the dead.
The strike comes after days of tensions following the arrest of a senior militant in the occupied West Bank on Monday.
Israel had closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border pending retaliation.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense League) is currently striking in the Gaza Strip. A special situation has been declared on the Israeli home front,” the Israeli military said in a statement.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the IDF said the official killed was Tayseer al-Jaabari.
According to the IDF, he was “responsible for multiple terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians” and shared a photo of him on social media.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that “the Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it”.
In a statement broadcast 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.
Tensions increase the likelihood of a second war in as many years
Tensions have been high around Gaza for days after Israel’s arrest of the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in the West Bank earlier this week.
An 80km zone of road closures and closures has been established on the Israeli side, pending retaliation by the PIJ – giving the IDF time to put military assets in place, in preparation for today’s operation.
Israel says efforts to get PIJ to climb down have been exhausted, which is why they have now decided to act first and launch “Operation Breaking Dawn.”
Strikes on a high-rise building killed a number of PIJ militants, including the commander of Islamic Jihad in northern Gaza. Among the dead was a five-year-old child and more than 40 were injured.
Israeli officials make it clear that this was an attack against a PIJ target, not Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. That message has been passed on to Hamas via back channels.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has already said it will respond, warning that Tel Aviv, just north of Gaza, will be targeted.
Hamas, which Israel says it wants to stay out of, must now decide what to do next. If the group joins forces with the PIJ and fires missiles at Israel, things could escalate very quickly and we could expect a second war in as many years.
Senior IDF commanders have hinted to me that their objectives have been achieved, but they are warning of further air strikes if they receive information that preparations are being made for attacks on Israel.
A lot depends on the next 24 hours.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza earlier on Friday and said authorities were “preparing actions that will remove the threat from this region” without elaborating further.
“We will operate with internal resilience and external strength to restore routine life in southern Israel,” he said.
“We do not seek conflict, but we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if necessary.”
The PIJ is smaller than Hamas, but shares a similar ideology, with both groups opposing Israel’s presence.