Air strikes and rocket attacks push Israel and Gaza into second day of fighting

  • 15 dead and dozens wounded – Palestinian Ministry of Health
  • At least 200 rockets were fired at the Israeli army
  • Israel killed an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza on Friday

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli planes bombed Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets into Israel on Saturday, a day after an Israeli operation against Islamic Jihad led to cross-border clashes that ended more than a year of relative calm.

Islamic Jihad launched missiles at Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial hub, after Israel killed one of the group’s top leaders in a surprise daytime air strike on a tower in Gaza City on Friday. Read more

The Israeli military said that Israel bombed more Islamic Jihad operatives and weapons depots hidden in residential areas on Saturday. The bombing of at least five homes sent thick clouds of smoke and debris into the air, while explosions rocked Gaza and ambulances roared through the streets.

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The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that Israeli strikes killed 15 Palestinians, including at least four other Islamic Jihad activists, and three civilians, including a child. She added that dozens of others were injured.

Palestinian militants fired at least 200 rockets into Israel – most of which were intercepted, setting off sirens and prompting people to flee to shelters. The Israeli Ambulance Service said there were no reports of serious injuries.

Egypt said it was in intensive talks to calm the situation. Further escalation will depend in large part on whether Hamas, the armed Islamist group that controls Gaza, chooses to join the fighting.

Two Egyptian security sources said that an Egyptian intelligence delegation headed by Major General Ahmed Abdel-Khaleq arrived in Israel on Saturday and will head to Gaza for mediation talks. The sources added that they were hoping to secure a one-day ceasefire in order to carry out the talks.

Islamic Jihad has indicated that no ceasefire is imminent. “Now is the time for resistance, not a truce,” a group official told Reuters. The group did not specify the number of dead of its members since Friday.

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About 2.3 million Palestinians are crammed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, where Israel and Egypt impose severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Strip and impose a naval blockade, due to security concerns.

Israel halted the planned transfer of fuel to Gaza shortly before its bombing on Friday, paralyzing the strip’s only power plant, reducing electricity to around 8 hours a day and prompting warnings from health officials that hospitals would be severely affected within days.

The border has been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and militants killed at least 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

The envoys of the United Nations and the European Union to the Middle East expressed concern about the violence, and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli attacks. “Israel has the right to protect itself,” US Ambassador to Israel Tom Niedes said on Twitter.

The streets of Gaza were largely empty on Saturday afternoon. At the site where Islamic Jihad supreme commander Taysir al-Jabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture were strewn along the street.

In Israel, the streets of the border town were largely empty while wildfires lit by rockets spread through nearby fields.

Islamic Jihad said it fired a missile at Israel’s main international gateway, Ben Gurion Airport, but the missile landed about 20 kilometers (12 miles) away. The Civil Aviation Authority said the airport was operating normally.

Tensions escalated this week after Israeli forces arrested a leader of the Islamic Jihad movement in the occupied West Bank, prompting threats of retaliation against the movement. The military said it arrested 19 other members of the group there on Saturday.

And the Israeli Defense Minister said that dozens of rocket facilities belonging to the movement in Gaza were destroyed. Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the operation thwarted an imminent attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and considered a terrorist organization by the West. Read more

Israeli political analysts said the military operation provided Lapid with an opportunity to bolster his security credentials ahead of the November 1 elections.

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Written by Ma’ayan Lobel, additional coverage by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan from Cairo, Amir Cohen from Sderot and Elie Balzon from Ashkelon. Editing by Robert Percell, Jason Neely and Christina Fincher

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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