The Israeli military launched deadly attacks on what it described as Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza on Friday, as tensions continued to mount between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its top leaders, Tayseer Al Jabari, was killed in an Israeli strike. He was 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 ten people were killed, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. Another 55 were injured, he said. Israel insists most of the dead were militants.
A producer of CNN in Gaza he saw doctors carrying two bodies out of a building called the Palestine Tower, which had been hit in one of the attacks.
An Israeli army statement said the military operation — which it called “Breaking Dawn” — targeted 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 against Al Jabari, and attacks on two anti-tank squadrons that were on their way to carry out an attack on Israeli forces.
In a call with reporters on Friday, an army spokesman said the two squadrons had been tracked for several days before the Air Force carried out its operation, adding that Israel had been facing an imminent threat for several days as the two Militant units moved very close to the fence separating Gaza from Israel.
A “special situation” has been declared in areas around Gaza in anticipation of possible rocket fire or other retaliatory attacks, the Israeli army said.
“The objective of this operation is the elimination of a concrete threat against the citizens of Israel and the civilians living next to the Gaza Strip, as well as the target of terrorists and their sponsors,” said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid. , and Defense Minister Benny Gantz 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 who tries to harm Israel should know: We will find him,” Lapid said.
Islamic Jihad has promised to respond. “All options are open, with all the means that the Palestinian resistance has, whether in Gaza or outside,” spokesman Daoud Shehab said on Al Jazeera. “The battlefield is open… The resistance will respond with full force. We won’t say how, but it’s inevitable.
Meanwhile, Gantz authorized the call-up of 25,000 reservists, signaling Israel’s readiness for a full-scale escalation.
The calls will immediately reinforce 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.
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, condemned the Israeli action. “The Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and take full responsibility for it,” said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
The attacks come after Israeli forces captured a senior Islamic Jihad commander, Bassam al-Saadi, during a Monday night raid on 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 fire with Israeli soldiers, according to the Israeli military. The Palestinian Health Ministry said the victim was shot in the head by Israeli forces.
Saadi was one of two wanted terrorist suspects arrested in that attack, Israel said. The quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said it was mobilizing its forces across the Palestinian territories in response.
In recent months, there have been repeated Israeli operations in and around Jenin, after several fatal attacks inside Israel were carried out by Palestinian snipers from the region. Thirty Palestinians have been killed in the attacks since the beginning of the year, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Source: CNN Brasil