Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes in Gaza on Friday targeting the Islamic Jihad militant group that left at least 10 dead — including including a senior militant.
Israel said the strike came in response to an “imminent threat” following the arrest of another senior militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.
Palestinian militants retaliated and fired a barrage of rockets into Israel just hours later, pushing the two sides closer to another all-out war.
Images broadcast by Israeli television stations captured a string of missiles lighting up the sky as explosions rang out and air raid sirens wailed in central and southern Israel as darkness fell.
The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed it had fired more than 100 rockets in Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv.
Israel’s ambulance service said there were no immediate reports of casualties in the country.
It came after Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid declared in a televised speech that his country launched the initial attack to target the Islamic Jihad group due to what he described as “concrete threats.”
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.
Footage showed smoke pouring out of a seventh-floor building immediately after a huge blast was heard in Gaza City on Friday afternoon. Video released by Israel’s military showed further strikes blowing up three guard towers with suspected militants in them.
In a nationally televised speech Friday night, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country had launched the attacks based on “concrete threats.”
“This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks — of any kind — from Gaza towards Israeli territory,” Lapid said. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who are trying to harm its civilians.”
He also added that “Israel isn’t interested in a broader conflict in Gaza, but will not shy away from one either.”
Among those killed in the strikes on Gaza was the 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
An Israeli official said a senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, Tayseer al-Jabari, and about 15 “terrorists” were also among the casualties. The official militant death toll has not been verified.
An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, who the Israeli military described as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, had been killed in the strikes.
“Israel carried out a precise counterterror operation against an immediate threat,” the Israeli PM said as 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.”
Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers have fought four wars and several other smaller battles over the last 15 years.
The latest strikes came just over a year after an 11-day war broke out between Israel and Hamas in May 2021 that left at least 250 people dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
With Post wires