Israel launched an airstrike in Gaza on Friday, killing at least eight people, including a commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group, and wounding 40 others, according to Palestinian officials.
An explosion was heard in Gaza City on Friday afternoon with several buildings engulfed in smoke and flames. The Israeli military said the military operation targeted Islamic Jihad as authorities announced a “special situation” on the home front, with schools closed and restrictions imposed on other activities in communities within 80 kilometers of the border.
The news was also confirmed by the health ministry in Gaza, which said that at least 40 people are being treated in hospitals as a result of Israeli attacks. The Israeli attack comes after several days of tensions between the sides, following the arrest of a senior Palestinian leader in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the Israeli military said Friday’s airstrikes in Gaza killed around 15 enemy fighters, warning that the operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group was not over.
“We estimate about 15 killed in action,” Army spokesman Richard Hecht told reporters.
“We are not done yet,” he added, describing the operation as a “preemptive strike” targeting a senior Islamic Jihad commander.
The attacks risk sparking another war in the territory, which is run by the Islamist militant group Hamas and is home to some 2 million Palestinians. The killing of a senior militant is likely to push the region closer to an all-out war.
Israel closed all roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for an attack following the arrest of the leader of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank on Monday. A teenage member of the group was killed in a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars between them in the 15 years since the militant group seized power in the coastal strip from rival Palestinian forces.
The last war took place in May 2021, and tensions rose again earlier this year after a wave of attacks inside Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and tensions at a Jerusalem holy site.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah, speaking to Iran’s al-Mayadeen television network, said that “we are starting the war and the Palestinian resistance fighters must stand together to face this aggression.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that “the Israeli enemies, who launched the aggression against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”
The Islamic Jihad group is smaller than Hamas, but largely shares its ideology. Both groups oppose Israel’s existence and have carried out many deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets into southern Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, while Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks coming from Gaza.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza earlier Friday, saying authorities were preparing “actions that will remove the threat from this region,” without elaborating. “We will operate with internal stability and external strength to restore normalcy in southern Israel,” he said, “We do not seek conflict, however we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if required.”/REL/
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