Israel air strikes on Gaza Strip, at least 10 dead

Israel on August 5 launched an offensive campaign against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 people.

The Islamic Jihad movement said a senior leader of the group, Tayseer al-Jabari, was killed in the Israeli attack. Al-Jabaria was a former commander of the Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, and a member of the Military Council.

Palestinian health authorities said at least 10 people were killed, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, and 75 people were injured. Israel, meanwhile, insists most of the dead are Muslim fighters.

Palestinian firefighters fight a fire at a structure destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza on August 5.  Photo: AFP.

Palestinian firefighters fight a fire at a structure destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza on August 5. Image: AFP.

A statement from the Israeli military said the military operation it called “Breaking Dawn” had targeted Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in the Gaza Strip. The objective of the operation was to carry out a pre-emptive strike against al-Jabari and two anti-tank teams that were on their way to carry out an attack against the Israeli army.

In an interview on the evening of August 5, an Israeli military spokesman said that they had been monitoring two militant groups of Islamic Jihad for days before launching the airstrike.

Israel has declared “special status” in the areas around Gaza in anticipation of possible retaliatory attacks.

“The objective of this operation is to eliminate the threat to the Israeli people and civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip, as well as to target terrorists and their sponsors,” said Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and the ministry. Defense Secretary Benny Gantz said in a joint statement.

Islamic Jihad has vowed to respond. “All options are being weighed with all the means of protest that the Palestinian people have, whether in Gaza or outside,” group spokesman Daoud Shehab said. “The battlefield is wide open… We will respond with all our might. We won’t reveal how, but it’s inevitable.”

Meanwhile, Minister Gantz authorized the army to assemble 25,000 reservists last night, signaling Israel’s readiness for a full-blown escalation.

Those summoned will strengthen the Israeli military’s Southern Command, including the area around Gaza, as well as supplement air defense system operators, among other deployments, Ministry of Defense said.

A damaged building in Gaza due to Israeli air strikes.  Photo: Anadolu Agency.

A damaged building in Gaza due to Israeli air strikes. Image: Anadolu Agency.

Missile sirens sounded continuously in many Israeli cities and towns last night. Media reported that a series of missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. There were no reports of casualties from Israel.

By midnight on August 5, Palestinian gunmen had launched 118 rockets towards Israel, according to an army official.

Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, condemned the Israeli attacks. “The Israeli military will pay the price and take responsibility for its actions,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Tor Wennesland, the top UN official in the Middle East, said he was deeply concerned by the continued escalation of tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

The United Nations, along with Egypt, often acts as a key mediator between Israel and Palestinian militants, helping to restore a ceasefire after conflict broke out.

Smoke trails from rockets fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel on August 5.  Photo: Reuters.

Smoke trails from rockets fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel on August 5. Image: Reuters.

Wennesland said the United Nations was “in full consultation with all stakeholders” to try to prevent the crisis from getting worse.

Thursday’s air strikes came after Israel captured Bassam al-Saadi, a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad, in a raid earlier this week in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.

Vu Hoang (Theo CNN)

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