The Israeli military believes it has inflicted ‘significant’ damage on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terror group, destroying infrastructure including a tunnel to Israel described as a ‘flagship’ project and eliminating its top brass, the army says tuesday.
Israel and Islamic Jihad on Sunday ended three days of intense fighting that saw hundreds of rockets launched at Israeli towns and intense airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the spate of violence, according to Hamas authorities in Gaza, although Israel blamed errant fire from Palestinian fighters for many of the deaths.
In a briefing concluding the 66 hours of Operation Breaking Dawn, the Israel Defense Forces said it “has significantly damaged Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its leadership”.
The army launched the first airstrikes after indications of an imminent PIJ anti-tank guided missile attack on Israeli civilians or soldiers on the border. These strikes killed the PIJ commander in northern Gaza, Taysir Jabari.
According to new details released by the IDF on Tuesday, the IDF used small hover bombs to hit Jabari’s apartment on the sixth floor in the 14-story tower in Gaza City.
The ordnance entered the seventh floor wall at an angle, penetrated the sixth floor ceiling and only then exploded, to minimize collateral damage, senior officers said.
In another major airstrike on the second night of the operation, PIJ commander in southern Gaza, Khaled Mansour, was killed.
The IDF delayed the attack on Mansour several times because his apartment was near a playground. The military posted a video that he broke off the strike, in an effort to show his efforts to avoid harming civilians, even when faced with the opportunity to hit a high profile target.
Read more: Operation Breaking Dawn was a tactical success, but won’t be the last round of fighting
The IDF struck 170 targets, using fighter jets, armed drones, helicopter gunships and artillery, according to the briefing.
The targets included 17 observation posts (six of which were manned by PIJ operatives), 45 rocket and mortar launch sites, eight military camps, eight weapons caches, six weapons production facilities, three targets related to the PIJ’s naval force and a “tunnel attack.”
In total, over the three days, 1,175 rockets and mortars were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system intercepted more than 380 projectiles fired at populated areas, with an unprecedented 97 percent success rate, the IDF said.
The May 2021 conflict saw an interception rate of 94%, compared to 89% in the 2014 war and 86% in 2012, according to military data. The high intercept rate was attributed to improvements in the defense system, as well as the limited firepower of the JIP.
Several rockets managed to evade the system and land in populated areas, causing some damage to homes and civilian infrastructure, and slightly injuring at least four people, including two soldiers. Dozens of other people received treatment for injuries sustained while running to shelters and for anxiety.
The IDF was still struggling to prevent rocket fire into Israel, with officers saying it only hit 10 squads that were on their way to launch an attack or had just fired rockets.
The military said it had focused much of its airstrike efforts on rocket storage and production sites, to push back the PIJ before the next potential conflict. The IDF thought the strikes would make it “much more difficult” to rearm the PIJ, but some officials say it already has thousands more rockets ready.
According to IDF data, some 200 rockets launched at Israel failed inside the Gaza Strip. In several cases, failed rocket the launches killed Palestinian civilians. According to military estimates, at least 16 uninvolved Palestinians were killed in such incidents, some of whom were children.
The IDF said the operation’s most important target was a attack tunnel he hit early on Sunday. The army said the tunnel, built several meters underground in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, was to be used to “enter and attack Israel by surprise”. The IDF said the tunnel does not cross Israeli territory because Israel has a high-tech underground wall protecting its border with Gaza from attack tunnels, which once threatened southern towns.
The tunnel was Mansour’s “flagship” project, according to a senior IDF officer.
Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip said 45 people were killed in the fighting, including 16 children, but did not say how many of those killed in total were affiliated with terror groups. At least 15 dead have been claimed as members of the PIJ, Hamas and another, smaller terror group.