Airstrikes and rocket attacks push Israel and Gaza into second day of fighting

  • Fourteen dead, at least 110 injured: Palestinian Health Ministry
  • At Least 160 Rockets Fired At Israel: Military
  • Israel killed Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza on Friday

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Israel attacked Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli towns on Saturday after an Israeli operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group ended more than a year of relative calm over border.

Israel killed one of the group’s top commanders on Friday in a surprise daytime airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza City that triggered volleys of rocket fire in return. read more

On Saturday, Israel said it struck Islamic Jihad militants preparing to launch rockets and militant posts. Additional shelling targeted five houses, witnesses said, sending huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza City.

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Palestinian militants fired at least 160 rockets across the border, setting off air raid sirens and sending people running for bomb shelters to the central Israeli city of Modiin, between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Islamic Jihad said it had targeted Israel’s main international gateway, Ben Gurion airport, but the rocket fell short near Modiin, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, and the Civil Aviation Authority said that the airport was operating as usual with adjusted flight paths.

Most of the missiles were intercepted and there were no reports of serious casualties, according to the Israeli ambulance service.

Efforts by Egypt, the UN and Qatar to end the fighting were underway. Further escalation would largely depend on whether Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, would choose to join the fight.

Israeli strikes have killed 14 Palestinians, including at least four other Islamic Jihad militants and a child, and injured at least 110 people, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Islamic Jihad did not provide precise details on how many of its members had been killed and did not signal an immediate ceasefire. “Now is the time for resistance, not for a truce,” an official with the group told Reuters.

Overnight, the Israeli military said it had detained 19 Islamic Jihad militants in raids in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as they attacked the group’s rocket launch and manufacturing sites in Gaza.

CONCERNED UN ENVOY

Some 2.3 million Palestinians huddle on Gaza’s narrow coastal strip, with Israel and Egypt strictly restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade, citing security concerns.

Israel halted planned transportation of fuel to Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the territory’s only power plant and cutting electricity to around 8 hours a day and prompting warnings from health officials that hospitals would be seriously affected in a few days.

The border had been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was deeply concerned about the violence and that the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks.

Gaza’s streets were largely deserted on Saturday afternoon. At the site where top Islamic Jihad commander Tayseer al-Jaabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture were scattered along the street.

A neighbor, Mariam Abu Ghanima, 56, said the Israeli army did not issue a warning before the attack as it has in previous rounds of violence.

An armed forces spokesman said the force had made efforts to avoid civilian casualties in the surprise attack, which used precision means to target a specific floor of the building.

Israel imposed special security measures in its southern territories near Gaza and is preparing to call up some 25,000 soldiers, according to Army Radio, and the streets of towns near the border were empty.

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank, prompting threats of retaliation from the group.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Friday’s attacks thwarted an immediate and concrete attack by the Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist organization by the West.

Some Israeli political analysts said the military operation gave Lapid a chance to bolster his security credentials ahead of the Nov. 1 election.

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Written by Maayan Lubell; edited by Robert Birsel and Jason Neely

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al-Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

Senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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