Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Palestinian militants fire rockets at Israel after Gaza air strikes

Palestinian militants fire rockets at Israel after Gaza air strikes
August 6, 2022 Web Desk

GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of rockets into Israel on Friday in response to Israeli airstrikes which killed at least 10 people, including a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

As darkness fell, Israeli authorities said sirens had been sounded in southern and central areas, while images broadcast by Israeli television stations appeared to show a number of missiles being shot down by air defence systems. In Tel Aviv, Israel's economic centre, witnesses said they could hear booms but there were no reports of sirens.

Islamic Jihad, a militant group with a similar ideology to Hamas, the Islamist movement in charge of Gaza, said it had fired more than 100 rockets on Friday into Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv. Israel's ambulance service said there were no reports of casualties.

The strikes came a little more than a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, which killed at least 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel and left the blockaded enclave's economy shattered.

Earlier, local health officials in Gaza said at least 10 people, including a five-year-old child, had been killed and 55 wounded in the Israeli airstrikes, which came after days of escalating tensions following the arrest of a Palestinian militant leader during the week.

An Israeli spokesperson said the strikes had killed Islamic Jihad commander Tayseer al-Jaabari and around 15 "terrorists" but said the military did not have a final casualty total.

"Israel carried out a precise counterterror operation against an immediate threat," Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised statement in which he pledged 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," he said.

The Israeli military said in a Twitter post that its war planes targeted Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza that "severely affect the organisation's ability to develop military capabilities."

An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, whom the Israeli military described as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, had been killed in the strikes, which hit several targets around the densely populated strip.

Smoke rose from a building where al-Jaabari was apparently killed and glass and rubble were strewn across the street amid the sound of ambulances racing to other sites.

As mourners prepared to hold funerals for those killed in the attacks, hundreds, some holding Palestinian flags, marched through the streets of Gaza, while queues formed outside bakeries and supermarkets as people stocked up on food and staples.

The strikes came after Israel arrested Bassam al-Saadi, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad group, during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week.

It subsequently closed off all Gaza crossings and some nearby roads over fears of retaliation from the group, which has a stronghold in Gaza, further restricting Palestinian movement.