Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its top leaders, Tayseer Al Jabari, had been killed in an Israeli strike. He was a commander of the Quds Brigade, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, the group said, and a member of its Military Council.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 10 people were killed, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. Another 55 were injured, she said. Israel insists that most of the dead were militants.
A CNN producer in Gaza saw medics removing two bodies from a building called the Palestine Tower that had been targeted in one of the attacks.
An Israeli army statement said the military operation, which it called “Breaking Dawn,” targeted Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza.
The Israeli army said the main focus of its military action was a pre-emptive airstrike on Al Jabari and strikes against two anti-tank squads that were on their way to carry out an attack on Israeli forces.
In a call with reporters Friday night, an army spokesman said the two squads had been tracked for several days before the Air Force carried out its operation, adding that Israel had faced an imminent threat for several days. days while the two militant units came very close. to the fence separating Gaza from Israel.
A “special situation” has been declared in areas around Gaza, in anticipation of possible rocket fire or other retaliatory attacks, the Israeli military said.
“The objective of this operation is the elimination of a concrete threat against the citizens of Israel and the civilians living in the immediate vicinity of the Gaza Strip, as well as the attack on the terrorists and their sponsors,” said the prime minister of Israel. , Yair Lapid, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. said in a joint statement.
“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel. Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know: we will find them.” Lapid said.
Islamic Jihad has promised to respond. “All options are open, with all the means the Palestinian resistance has, whether in Gaza or outside,” spokesman Daoud Shehab told Al Jazeera. “The battlefield is open… The resistance will respond in full force. We won’t say how, but it’s inevitable.”
Meanwhile, Gantz authorized the call-up of 25,000 reservists on Friday night, signaling Israel’s readiness for a full-scale escalation.
The calls will immediately bolster the army’s southern command, which includes the area around Gaza, as well as units operating Israel’s air defense systems, among other deployments, the Defense Ministry said.
Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, has condemned the Israeli move. “The Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
The attacks come after Israeli forces captured a senior Islamic Jihad commander, Bassam al-Saadi, during a raid Monday night in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
During that operation, a 17-year-old Palestinian linked to Islamic Jihad was shot dead in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers, according to the Israeli military. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that Israeli forces had shot him in the head.
Saadi was one of two wanted terror suspects detained in that raid, Israel said. The Quds Brigade, Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, said it was mobilizing its forces in the Palestinian territories in response.
Israeli operations in and around Jenin have been repeated in recent months, after Palestinian gunmen from the region carried out several fatal attacks inside Israel. Thirty Palestinians have been killed in the raids since the beginning of the year, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.