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At least eight people killed – including an Islamic Jihad commander and a young girl – and 44 injured in a series of missile attacks across Gaza.
gaza city – Israel attacked Gaza with warplanes on Friday, killing at least eight people, including an Islamic Jihad group commander and a young girl.
Taysir al-Jabari, a commander of the al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, died in an airstrike on an apartment in Palestine Tower in central Gaza City, the group said.
The health ministry in Gaza said at least seven people had been killed, including al-Jabari and a five-year-old girl. At least 44 people were injured and treated in hospitals as a result of the Israeli raids.
Smoke billowed from the seventh floor of the building in Gaza City. Civil protection teams rushed to the scene to evacuate residents and put out a fire caused by the attack.
“We just had lunch on Friday and my kids were playing. Suddenly a huge explosion hit the tower we live in. We fled. The sound was massive. We were very shocked because the place is full of civilians. I saw many victims who were evacuated,” a resident told Al Jazeera with blood covering his clothes.
Multiple explosions could be heard and seen throughout Gaza. Israeli reconnaissance drones could be heard hovering over the besieged enclave.
Attacks also hit the southern neighborhoods of Khan Younis and Rafah, as well as the neighborhood of al-Shuja’iya.
This followed days of tension with Islamic Jihad following the arrest of senior Palestinian leader Bassam al-Saadi in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
It also came after days of border closures, including the closure of the Karam Abu Salem commercial crossing, which is responsible for the flow of fuel needed by Gaza’s only power plant.
In a statement, Islamic Jihad said: “The enemy has started a war targeting our people, and we all have a duty to defend ourselves and our people, and not let the enemy get away with it. its actions aimed at undermining the resistance and national firmness.
Earlier on Friday, the Israeli army said it was striking Gaza, adding that “a special situation has been declared on Israel’s home front.”
Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for an answer after the arrest on Monday of a senior member of the Islamic Jihad group in the occupied West Bank.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement that he would respond to Friday’s “escalation”.
“The Israeli enemy is the one who started the escalation against the resistance in Gaza, and a new crime has been committed, and he bears full responsibility,” Barhoum said.
“The resistance will defend our people in the Gaza Strip with all they have and will continue to respond.”
Ahmed Mudalal, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, said the group had demanded from Israel through Egyptian mediators, including the release of the detained leader and another prisoner, an end to raids in the West Bank and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. He said they had not yet received a response.
Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes over the past 15 years.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza on Friday, saying authorities were preparing “actions that will eliminate the threat from that area,” without giving further details.
“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.”
Israel and Egypt have maintained a strict blockade on Gaza for 14 years, and critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment of the region’s two million Palestinian residents.