Worst escalation of violence in Gaza in a year after the killing of a prominent activist

Israel bombed Gaza with air strikes on Saturday and a Palestinian armed group responded with a barrage of rockets, in the worst escalation of violence in the territory since the war last year.
Health authorities in the enclave controlled by Hamas Islamists said 10 people were killed in the Israeli shelling, including a five-year-old girl, and 79 others were wounded. The Israeli army estimated that its operation killed 15 activists.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the Jewish state was forced to launch a “preemptive anti-terror operation against the immediate threat” posed by Islamic Jihad, after days of tension along the Gaza border.
Israeli forces expanded their offensive against Islamic Jihad on Saturday, announcing the arrest of 19 members of the movement in the West Bank, while launching more strikes on Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.
An army statement said that soldiers and agents of the Shin Bet security service worked in several locations in the West Bank “in order to arrest Islamic Jihad activists.”

Of the 20 people arrested in the latest operation, “19 of them are from Islamic Jihad,” the army said.

Kill the supreme leader

Israel and Islamic Jihad confirmed the killing of a prominent leader of the group, Taysir al-Jabari, in an attack on a building in western Gaza City on Friday.
Islamic Jihad said the initial Israeli bombing was a “declaration of war,” before it fired more than 100 rockets toward Israel.
Israeli rocket fire and strikes continued through the night, threatening a repeat of the 11-day conflict in May 2021 that devastated Gaza and forced countless Israelis to rush into shelters.
“Israel is not interested in a broader conflict in Gaza, but it will not be ashamed of another conflict,” Lapid said in a nationally televised address.
Sirens sounded overnight in several areas in southern and central Israel, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Officials in border areas urged people to stay near the shelters, which are also opening in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.
The army initially confirmed the launch of at least 70 rockets from Gaza, saying that 11 rockets landed inside the Strip, while the Iron Dome air defense system intercepted dozens, and that others fell in open areas.
Warnings of Israeli air strikes and strikes had at least temporarily subsided by 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT).

Egyptian officials in Gaza told AFP that Egypt, the historical mediator between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, is seeking to mediate and may host an Islamic Jihad delegation later on Saturday.

The Gaza Ministry of Health said a five-year-old girl was among the dead

Flames erupted from a building in Gaza City following the first round of strikes, while medics evacuate wounded Palestinians.
The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that a “five-year-old girl targeted by the Israeli occupation” was among the nine killed.

Five-year-old Alaa Qaddoum had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her father carried her body to her funeral.

Palestinians attend the funeral of five-year-old Alaa Qaddoum, who was killed in an Israeli air strike along with other Palestinians. attributed to him: Soup/USA Girl Pictures

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Gaza City for the funerals of Jabari and others killed in the air strikes.

“We assume that 15 were killed in operations” in Gaza, said Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht, referring to Palestinian fighters.

Israeli tanks lined up along the border and the army said on Thursday it was beefing up its forces.

A history of conflict

Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since it seized control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May. Islamic Jihad is a separate group, allied with Hamas, but also operating independently.
Clashes with Islamic Jihad erupted in 2019, after the Israel killing of Baha Abu al-Atta, Jabari’s predecessor.
The two sides exchanged fire for several days without Hamas joining the battle.
Hamas’ moves amid the current violence may be crucial in determining its severity, as the movement faces pressure from some to maintain calm in order to improve economic conditions in the region.
Abdullah Al-Arashi from Gaza said the situation was “extremely tense”. “The country has been destroyed. We are tired of wars and our generation has lost its future,” he told AFP.
Hamas said that Israel “committed a new crime that must pay the price.”

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist organizations by most of the West.

UN peace envoy ‘very concerned’

The UN Middle East peace envoy, Tor Wencesland, said he was “deeply concerned”, warning that the escalation was “extremely dangerous”.
The strikes come four days after Israel closed its border crossings with Gaza and imposed restrictions on the movement of Israeli civilians living near the border, citing security concerns.
These measures followed the arrest of two senior members of Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank, among them Bassem al-Saadi, whom Israel accuses of masterminding the recent attacks.
Israel has launched a wave of raids inside the West Bank since mid-March in response to the deadly attacks on Israeli citizens.
Islamic Jihad did not fire rockets after Saadi’s arrest, but Israel insisted during the week that the group was committed to revenge.

Palestinians, including patients and holders of Israeli work permits, have been prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip since Tuesday, while the goods crossing has also been closed.

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