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

  • Fifteen dead, dozens injured: Palestinian Health Ministry
  • At Least 200 Rockets Fired At Israel: Military
  • Israel killed Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza on Friday

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

Islamic Jihad fired volleys of rockets into Israel’s commercial hub, Tel Aviv, after Israel killed one of the group’s top commanders in a surprise daytime airstrike on a Gaza City tower on Friday. read more

Israel attacked more Islamic Jihad militants and weapons depots hidden in residential areas on Saturday, the army said. The shelling of at least five houses sent huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air, as explosions rocked Gaza and ambulances raced through the streets.

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Israeli strikes have killed 15 Palestinians, including at least four other Islamic Jihad militants and three civilians, including a child, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. He added that many more had been injured.

Palestinian militants fired at least 200 rockets into Israel, most of them intercepted, setting off air raid sirens and sending people running to bomb shelters. There were no reports of serious casualties, the Israeli ambulance service said.

Egypt said it was in intensive talks to defuse the situation. Further escalation would largely depend on whether Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, would choose to join the fight.

An Egyptian intelligence delegation led by Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdelkhaliq arrived in Israel on Saturday and was to travel to Gaza for mediation talks, two Egyptian security sources said. They hoped to secure a one-day ceasefire to carry out the talks, the sources added.

Islamic Jihad noted that a ceasefire was not imminent. “Now is the time for resistance, not for a truce,” an official with the group told Reuters. The group has not said how many of its members have been killed since Friday.

CONCERN

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 and EU envoys in the Middle East expressed concern about the violence and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Twitter that “Israel has a right to protect itself.”

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.

In Israel, the streets of border towns were largely empty as rocket-started wildfires spread across nearby fields.

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

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the occupied West Bank, prompting threats of retaliation from the group. The army said it had detained 19 more members of the group there on Saturday.

The Israeli defense minister said dozens of the group’s rocket installations in Gaza had been destroyed. Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the operation thwarted an imminent attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by the West. read more

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, additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, Amir Cohen in Sderot, and Eli Belzon in Ashkelon; edited by Robert Birsel, Jason Neely and Christina Fincher

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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