Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes in Gaza on Friday against the Islamic Jihad militant group that left at least 10 dead, including a high-ranking militant.
Israel said the attack came in response to an “imminent threat” following the arrest of another high-ranking militant in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.
Palestinian militants retaliated, firing a barrage of rockets at Israel just hours later, pushing the two sides. closer to another total war.
Footage broadcast by Israeli television stations captured a series of missiles lighting up the sky as explosions rang out and air-raid sirens howled across central and southern Israel as darkness fell.
The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed it had fired more than 100 rockets at 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 on the Islamic Jihad group because of what he described as “concrete threats.”
The attacks 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 billowing from a seventh-floor building immediately after a large explosion was heard in Gaza City on Friday afternoon. Video released by Israel’s military showed further strikes that blew up three watchtowers with suspected militants on them.
In a nationally televised speech on 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 attack, of any kind, from Gaza into Israeli territory,” Lapid said. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are those who try to harm its civilians.”
He also added that “Israel is not interested in a broader conflict in Gaza, but it will not shy away from one either.”
Among those killed in the attacks on Gaza were the 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
An Israeli official said a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement commander, Tayseer al-Jabari, and some 15 “terrorists” were also among the victims. The official number of militant deaths has not been verified.
An Islamic Jihad official confirmed that al-Jaabari, whom the Israeli army described as the main coordinator between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, had been killed in the attacks.
“Israel carried out a precise counter-terrorism operation against an immediate threat,” the Israeli prime minister said, pledging to do “whatever is necessary to defend our people.”
“Our fight is not with the people of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy who wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis.”
Israel and the militant Hamas rulers in Gaza have fought four wars and several other minor battles in the last 15 years.
The latest attacks come just over a year after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas broke out in May 2021 that left at least 250 dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.
with post wires