Gaza militants fire rockets into Israel after airstrikes kill 12

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JERUSALEM — Israeli forces and militants in Gaza continued to exchange air and rocket attacks on Saturday, with Israeli airstrikes kill at least 24 people inside the enclave since Friday, including the leader of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad brigade, and wounding more than 200 others, according to Palestinian officials.

There were no signs of the fighting abating and the Israeli army said it had prepared for its operations to last at least a week.

Militants fired more than 449 rockets into Israel in retaliation overnight and through Saturday, according to the Israeli military.

On August 6, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group launched rockets towards Israeli territory. (Video: Newsflare)

A strike in the Jabalya area in northern Gaza on Saturday night killed at least five people, including four children, witnesses said. Videos on social media showed a number of injured people being evacuated by ambulance and what appears to be a young body being carried in the arms of a man.

The IDF said its review of video of the incident showed it was caused by a failed Islamic Jihad rocket, about a third of which failed to clear the boundaries of the enclave.

The deadly strike came an hour and 10 minutes after Israel’s last activity in the area, a spokesperson says, while aerial reconnaissance footage and intelligence findings show the path of a launched rocket from an Islamic Jihad location.

“We have hard data indicating it was their rocket,” Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said.

Emergency response officials reported no significant injuries from rocket fire aimed at Israel, as thousands of residents of southern and central Israel took shelter in safe rooms or bunkers community anti-aircraft. Several civilians were reportedly lightly injured as they ran for cover, and two IDF soldiers were injured by shrapnel, officials said. Several brush fires were reported in areas where rockets fell.

Late Saturday, a barrage was directed towards Tel Aviv, where residents reported hearing explosions as rockets were brought down by Israel’s air defense system.

The IDF said its Iron Dome air defense network intercepted about 95% of the rockets. No major property damage was reported. Officials said 81 of the launches failed and landed in Gaza and another 14 plunged into the sea.

The IDF continued to carry out airstrikes in Gaza, targeting what it said were rocket manufacturing, storage and launching sites. An official said the strikes killed several “mid-level” commanders. The dead inside the enclave include several civilians, including a 5-year-old girl, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

An Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue, said the military was aware of the information and would investigate the circumstances of the child’s death. He said the strikes are carefully planned to avoid injuring bystanders, but the militants make perfect precision impossible by embedding themselves and their weapons within the civilian population.

At least two large buildings near the beach in Gaza City were demolished on Saturday. The Israeli official said the buildings housed command and control centers used by Islamic Jihad. Residents were notified and buildings evacuated before the strikes occurred, he said.

Military officials said they launched a preemptive strike after detecting signs that Islamic Jihad was setting up equipment for an “imminent” attack on Israeli civilians in communities near Gaza. Tensions have been rising between the sides since Israel arrested an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank on Tuesday.

Friday’s initial strike killed Taysir al-Jabari, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, when a missile destroyed part of the Palestine Tower building.

“Suddenly, without warning, there was a big explosion and the window pane started flying,” said Iman Abu Ghanima, 51, who lives in a building next to the site of the blast. She said she and her family of six, including a pregnant daughter-in-law, fled the scene and stayed with relatives. This was the second time their apartment had been damaged by Israeli airstrikes; it was also damaged during the 2014 war, she said.

Israel has also stepped up its nightly arrests of suspected Islamic Jihad members outside Gaza. The IDF said forces arrested 20 men after raids near Hebron, Ramallah and other West Bank locations.

There were no signs that Hamas, the rival militant group that rules Gaza, was participating in the attacks on Israel, although the group issued statements condemning Israel’s airstrikes.

Ismail Haniyeh, the political head of Hamas, said Israel bears full responsibility for the fighting. During a call to Egyptian mediators, he demanded an immediate end to the IDF strikes.

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Hamas, which maintains its own stockpile of weapons and has waged several wars with Israel, has not always joined the Islamic Jihad fights. Hamas was absent for several days from exchanges between Islamic Jihad and Israel in 2019 after Israel killed another senior Islamic Jihad commander. Hamas’ actions could now be key in determining whether the fighting escalates. Diplomats from the United Nations and Egypt said they were working to ease tensions. A delegation from Cairo was due to arrive in Gaza on Saturday, according to media reports.

“The most important thing is whether Hamas is going to intervene or not,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, a former head of intelligence research for the Israeli army. “Right now, I think they’re sitting on the question. They offer moral support to Islamic Jihad, of course, but they don’t imply involvement. The situation is very fragile.

Israeli officials hope the conditions are in place for a relatively quick end to the violence. In the year since Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war that has killed more than 250 Palestinians and 13 people inside Israel, 14,000 Gazans have received work permits in Israel, a vital source of money in the enclave that has dried up since Israel sealed the borders amid tensions this week. Reconstruction, mainly financed by external donors, had started to accelerate in recent months.

Militarily, analysts say, Hamas hasn’t had time to fully replenish the supply of rockets it fired in the last war, which could deter engaging in another major battle. now. But opinions within the organization are known to be divided, with some Hamas officials outside the enclave more keen on an escalation.

For civilians, the situation inside Gaza is rapidly deteriorating. Authorities shut down the enclave’s only power plant on Saturday, which was already operating at limited capacity, due to a lack of fuel to run the generators. There were queues to buy groceries even though occasional IDF strikes landed elsewhere in the enclave of 2 million people. No inventory has passed from Israel since Tuesday.

Mahmoud Jaber, 23, had been queuing outside a bakery in Gaza City for half an hour and still had an hour to wait until he could shop for the 13 people, including seven children, who live in his house.

“We don’t know how long the war will last,” he said.

Many families said they had spent a sleepless night, disturbed by the airstrikes in Gaza and the even more frequent explosions of interceptor missiles in the surrounding skies.

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” Ammar Mansour said as he waited his turn to buy bread on Saturday, something he knows how to do whenever fighting breaks out. “There is no hope, no future. I am 21 years old and I have lived through four wars.

Some mourned those who had been killed. Among the mourners were the family of Alaa Qaddoum, the 5-year-old child, who was killed by shrapnel or debris in Mansoura Street.

“What was she guilty of, this little girl? his grandfather Riyad Qaddoum said in a tearful video posted on YouTube. “She was getting ready to start kindergarten. … What was his guilt?

Balousha reported from Gaza.

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