Home World Israel strikes on Gaza target Islamic Jihad after cease-fire fails

Israel strikes on Gaza target Islamic Jihad after cease-fire fails


JERUSALEM — Israel attacked new targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday as Islamist militants continued to launch rockets into Israeli territory, extending into a third day a violent flare-up that has killed more than two dozen Palestinians and heightening the risk of wider conflict.

Israeli aircraft struck the upper floor of an apartment building in the south of the enclave, killing three members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including one, Ali Hassan Ghali, that the group identified as the head of its rocket program. The other two were his brother and nephew, according to Palestinian media.

Seven others were injured in the pre-dawn strike, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The attacks have killed 25 since they began early Tuesday, the agency said, and injured more than 70 others. Six children are among those killed, it added.

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Israel, which maintains a strict blockade of northern Gaza, said border crossings would remained closed Thursday.

Israel’s targeting continues to focus on Islamic Jihad while avoiding direct hits on Hamas, the dominant and more heavily armed Gaza faction. Military officials said they saw no sign that Hamas had yet deployed its own weapons in the latest escalation, although the group had repeatedly condemned Israel’s attacks and pledged revenge.

Islamic Jihad has fired more than 460 rockets, according to Israel Defense Forces, with some projectiles reaching as far as Tel Aviv. After an overnight pause in launches, air raid sirens sounded early Thursday in towns close to the Gaza border.

There have been no reports of deaths or injury from rocket hits, with most being destroyed midair by air defense systems. Local officials said several houses and vehicles were hit in Sderot, Netivot and other communities near Gaza. One rocket fell on the roof of a kindergarten in the Eshkol region; another hit an empty playground. Schools in the area remained closed for a third day Thursday.

Only 333 of the launched rockets made it into Israeli territory, the IDF said, with most of those being intercepted by the country’s air defense systems. More than a 100 failed upon launch and landed inside of Gaza, it said.

Diplomatic efforts to curtail the fighting continued overnight as governments expressed concern about the loss of life and the risk of the conflict widening. Egyptian media reported that an agreement between the parties had been reached late Wednesday, but no official announcement came and the attacks continued. An Islamic Jihad official said a deal collapsed when Israel refused to suspend its practice of targeting militant leaders, according to the Associated Press.

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Israel has killed at least four Islamic Jihad leaders in the recent days, deploying a lethal blend of precision projectiles, surveillance drones and detailed human intelligence. According to media reports, Ghali was killed when his bedroom in the apartment where he was in hiding was struck.

IDF officials said their intent was to decimate leadership of the group to disrupt its ability to build and launch rockets.

“We see you wherever you are and you can’t hide,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address Wednesday night. “We will choose where and when to attack you.”

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in a call to his Israeli counterpart Wednesday, encouraged the regional cease-fire efforts and cited the Biden’s administration’s “ironclad support for Israel’s security, as well as its right to defend its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks.”

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Wednesday that the deaths of civilians, particularly women and children, was “unacceptable and must stop immediately.”

“Israel must abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law, including the proportional use of force and taking all feasible precautions to spare civilians,” a statement from his office said. “The Secretary-General also condemns the indiscriminate launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, which violates international humanitarian law and puts at risk both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

The military escalation began with an operation early Tuesday in which 40 Israeli aircraft hit three apartment buildings across the enclave, killing three senior leaders of the Islamic Jihad and at least 12 other people. Israel said the militants had been directly involved in attacks against Israelis and were planning more “within days.” One of the men killed had directed a barrage of more than 100 rockets launched into Israel earlier this month, following the death of a jailed Palestinian hunger striker from Islamic Jihad.

Rubin reported from Tel Aviv, Balousha from Gaza City.

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