Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes in Gaza on Friday targeting the Islamic Jihad militant group that left at least 10 people dead, including a senior militant.
Israel said the strike was a response to an “imminent threat” following the arrest of another high-ranking militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.
Palestinian militants returned fire and fired a barrage of rockets into Israel hours later, pushing both sides closer to another total war.
Footage broadcast by Israeli TV channels captured a series of missiles lighting up the sky as explosions sounded and air raid sirens sounded in central and southern Israel as darkness fell.
The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed to have fired more than 100 rockets at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Ambulance Service said there were no immediate reports of casualties in the country.
It came after Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised address that his country launched the initial attack to target the Islamic Jihad group because of what he described as ‘concrete threats’. .
The strikes came after Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, in a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week.
Footage shows smoke billowing from a building on the seventh floor immediately after a huge explosion was heard in Gaza City on Friday afternoon. Video released by the Israeli military showed new strikes blowing up three guard towers with suspected militants inside.
In a nationally televised address Friday night, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country launched the attacks based on “concrete threats”.
“This government has a policy of zero tolerance for any attempted attack – of any kind – from Gaza into Israeli territory,” Lapid said. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who try to harm its civilians.”
He also added that “Israel is not interested in a wider conflict in Gaza, but it will not shy away from it either.”
Among those killed in the strikes on Gaza were the 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, the Palestinian health ministry said.
An Israeli official said a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Tayseer al-Jabari, and about 15 “terrorists” were also among the victims. The official death toll of militants has not been verified.
An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, whom the Israeli army described as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, was killed in the strikes.
“Israel conducted a precise counterterrorism operation against an immediate threat,” said the Israeli Prime Minister, pledging to do “whatever it takes to defend our people.”
“Our fight 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.
Israel and the militant Hamas leaders of Gaza have fought four wars and several other small battles over the past 15 years.
The latest strikes came just over a year after the outbreak of an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 that left at least 250 dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
With post wires