Gaza airstrikes: Israel keeps up pressure on Islamic Jihad with second day of deadly bombardments
Gaza and Jerusalem
The Israel Defense Forces targeted what they called Islamic Jihad terrorist organization operatives and infrastructure in Gaza on Wednesday, a day after Israeli military airstrikes killed three leaders of the Palestinian militant group and 10 other Palestinian men, women and children along the strip.
The suspects on Wednesday were traveling to a rocket launch site in the city of Khan Younis, the IDF said. The Ministry of Health in Gaza said one person was killed in Wednesday’s attack. It named him as Muhammad Yusuf Saleh Abu Ta’ima, 25, and said he was killed in the bombing east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
A CNN producer in Gaza reported explosions in Khan Younis, Rafah and northern Gaza.
Shortly afterwards, he saw at least six rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel. Sirens warning of incoming rockets sounded in the southern Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon and the Lachish area, all near the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Nine rockets fired at the city of Sderot were all intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, the municipality of Sderot said Wednesday. The city said it had no reports of injuries or property damage.
The nearby city of Ashkelon also said it had no reports of injuries or damage.
One of the three Islamic Jihad commanders killed on Tuesday was working on capabilities to launch rockets from the West Bank toward Israel, IDF chief spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at the time.
Rockets have never been fired from the West Bank into Israel.
Islamic Jihad confirmed three of its commanders were killed in the overnight operation along with their wives and children.
The commanders killed were Jihad Shaker Al-Ghannam, secretary of the Military Council in the al Quds Brigades; Khalil Salah al Bahtini, commander of the Northern Region in the al Quds Brigades; and Ezzedine, one of the leaders of the military wing of the al Quds Brigades in the West Bank, the group said.
The group vowed a “response” to Israeli airstrikes, calling the attacks an “aggressive, heinous massacre.”
Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement that runs Gaza, issued a similar statement, promising a “firm response from the unified resistance forces, whose unity is manifested in its greatest form in the field.”
Hagari said the operation had been planned since last Tuesday, when Islamic Jihad fired more than 100 rockets toward Israel following the death of its former spokesman while on hunger strike in an Israeli prison.
But, the IDF did not have the “operational conditions” until overnight Tuesday.
The IDF launched a further strike on Tuesday, saying its air force targeted “a terrorist squad” belonging to Islamic Jihad in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza said two people were killed and two others injured in that attack east of Khan Younis, although they have yet to identify them, bringing the death toll in Gaza to 15 on Tuesday.
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The Al Shifa hospital in Gaza said those killed in Tuesday’s strikes were members of four families plus one other individual.
The dead included five women and four children, a list of the dead released by the Al-Shifa Medical Complex showed.
One of the Palestinian men killed in Israeli airstrikes was a prominent dentist, Jamal Khaswan, who died along with his wife and son, the Ministry of Health added. Khaswan was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Al-Wafa Hospital, the ministry said, praising him as a scientific and practical man of great determination.
He held Russian citizenship, according to the Russian Representative Office in Ramallah. The Russian Mission said Khaswan and his wife left behind two orphaned children who are also Russian citizens.
The Ministry of Health added that 20 people had been injured, including three children and seven women.
When asked about civilians who were also killed in the attack, IDF spokesperson Hagari said they were not intentionally targeted.
Islamic Jihad said Ghannam, 62, was also commander-in-chief of the al Quds Brigades and has been wanted for over 20 years, having survived five previous assassination attempts.
He had worked in Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and the Popular Resistance Committees, secular Palestinian militant groups that predate the emergence of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the group said.
The IDF accused Ghannam of coordinating weapons and money transfers between Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the militant group which runs Gaza. It called him one of the most senior members of Islamic Jihad.
Calling the strikes “Operation Shield and Arrow,” the IDF said its fighter jets and helicopters hit 10 Islamic Jihad targets, including what it said were “rocket production workshops in Khan Yunis,” weapon manufacturing sites, military compounds, a concrete manufacturing site and a military post in southern Gaza.
Video from Gaza on Tuesday showed explosions lighting up the night sky and the rubble from buildings hit by the strikes.
The latest violence came almost a week after Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged fire following the death of Khader Adnan, a prominent Palestinian hunger striker in an Israeli prison, inflaming tensions in the region.