Israel-Gaza conflict: militants exchange fire after deadly attack – National

Israeli jets bombed militant targets in Gaza on Saturday and rocket fire continued in southern Israel, fueling fears of an escalation after a spate of Israeli airstrikes on the coastal enclave killed at least 12 people, including a senior militant and a 5-year-old girl.

The fighting began with the killing by Israel of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in a strike on Friday. The Hamas rulers in the Gaza Strip have so far seemed to remain on the sidelines of the conflict and have kept its intensity within limits for the time being. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several minor battles over the past 15 years, causing tremendous damage to the territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents.

Shortly before noon on Saturday, Israeli warplanes stepped up their airstrikes. After telephone calls to warn residents, warplanes dropped two bombs on the house of an Islamic Jihad member in a residential area of ​​Gaza City, leveling the two-storey building and severely damaging surrounding houses. Women and children rushed from the area and there were no casualties.

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“Warned us? They warned us with rockets and we fled without taking anything,” said Huda Shamalakh, who lived next door. She said 15 people lived in the target house.

Another airstrike hit a nearby Islamic Jihad site. Gaza militants continued to fire rockets at southern Israel about every half hour, although there were no reports of casualties.

The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt Saturday midday due to a lack of fuel as Israel has kept its border crossings into Gaza closed since Tuesday. The shutdown deepens the densely populated area’s chronic power crisis amid the summer heat. With the new disruption, Gaza residents can only get electricity for 4 hours a day, increasing their reliance on private generators.

The latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza was sparked by the arrest this week of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank, part of a month-long Israeli military operation in the area. Citing a security threat, Israel then sealed off roads around the Gaza Strip and killed Islamic Jihad commander for the northern Gaza Strip, Taiseer al-Jabari, in a targeted attack on Friday.

An Israeli military spokesman said the attacks were in response to an “imminent threat” posed by two militant squads armed with anti-tank missiles.

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Hamas and Israel both claim victory after ceasefire agreement

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“This government has a zero-tolerance policy towards any attempted attack _ of any kind _ from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised address on Friday. “Israel will not stand idly by when there are those who seek to harm its civilian population.”

“Israel is not interested in a major conflict in Gaza, but will not shy away from it either,” he added.

The violence represents an early test for Lapid, who has assumed the role of acting prime minister ahead of November’s election if he hopes to retain the position.

Lapid, a centrist former TV host and author, has experience in diplomacy, having served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but has scant security credentials. A conflict with Gaza could buff his reputation and give him a boost if he faces off against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who has led the country in three of its four wars with Hamas.

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Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new struggle, barely a year after the last war wreaked widespread havoc. Since then there has been almost no reconstruction and the isolated coastal area is riddled with poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50%.

Egypt stepped up efforts to prevent an escalation and communicated with Israel, the Palestinians and the US to stop Hamas from joining the fighting, an Egyptian intelligence official said. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief media.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman were among the 12 dead in the Gaza Strip, along with more than 80 wounded. No distinction was made between civilians and militants. The Israeli military said around 15 militants were killed, according to initial estimates.

Hundreds marched in a funeral procession for jihadi commander al-Jabari and others who were killed, with many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic jihadi flags and calling for revenge. Al-Jabari had succeeded in 2019 another militant killed in an airstrike that also sparked a round of fierce fighting at the time.

Overnight, Israeli media showed the skies over southern and central Israel lit up by missiles and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. There were no immediate reports of casualties on the Israeli side. Israel said its nightly strikes in Gaza had hit rocket launchers, rocket construction sites and Islamic Jihad positions. In addition, 19 Islamic Jihad fighters were arrested in the West Bank, the military said.

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UN special envoy for the region Tor Wennesland said: “The firing of missiles must cease immediately and I call on all sides to avoid further escalation.”

Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz approved an order to call up 25,000 reserve soldiers if needed, while the military announced a “special situation” on the home front with closed schools and restricted activities in communities within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border.

Israel earlier this week closed roads around Gaza and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for a revenge attack after Monday’s arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, a leader of Islamic Jihad, in a military attack in the occupied West Bank. A teenage member of the group was killed in a shootout between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.

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Palestinians in Israel are on strike as violence rages on in Gaza

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Hamas seized power in Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from the coastal strip. The last war with Israel took place in May 2021. Tensions rose again earlier this year after a spate of attacks inside Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and tensions at a flashpoint, the holy site of Jerusalem.

Iran-backed Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas but largely shares Hamas’ ideology. Both groups oppose the existence of Israel and have carried out countless deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets into Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel blames Hamas for all attacks from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory since the Hamas takeover. Israel says the shutdown is necessary to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities. Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

© 2022 The Canadian Press Israel-Gaza conflict: militants exchange fire after deadly attack – National


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