Israel killed the head of Islamic Jihad’s rocket force and his deputy, forcing an operation in the Gaza Strip that killed 30 people, including women and children, while a Palestinian cross-border rocket volley hit Israel on Thursday. caused the first death.
Neither side appears ready to quell the worst clashes since August, now in its third day, amid Egyptian mediation efforts.
“We are at the height of our offensive and defensive movements,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement released during a visit to the air base.
“Whoever comes to harm us—his blood will be confiscated.”
The deaths of Ali Ghali and Ahmed Abu Daqqa bring the number of senior figures in the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group to five since Israel began its assault on Gaza earlier on Tuesday. people.
Two gunmen from a splinter group were killed in another attack on Thursday. The identities of the two men killed elsewhere were not yet known. Four women and six children also died.
But Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second-largest armed group after the ruling Hamas Islamists, continued to fire rockets.
“We will not back down, the assassination will only make us stronger. Our revenge continues,” it said in a communiqué.
The hundreds of rocket launches have sounded the alarm as far north as Tel Aviv. About 1.5 million Israelis — 16 percent of the population — have been ordered to shelter, military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said.
While Iron Dome and David Slingshot interceptors shot down 96 percent of the rockets, one hit a residential building in Rehovot on Thursday, according to the military. An elderly man was killed, the first Israeli death in the latest bout of fighting, and five others were wounded, medics said.
The latest escalation has sparked calls for an international ceasefire more than a year after Israeli-Palestinian violence has killed more than 140 Palestinians and at least 19 Israelis and foreigners since January.
But Cairo, which hosted Mohammad Indi, a senior Islamic Jihad official, for the talks, was cautious about the prospects.
Mediation to no avail
“Egypt’s efforts to calm the situation and resume the political process have yet to bear fruit,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters.
Meeting his Jordanian, French and German counterparts in Berlin, Shoukry urged “countries that support peace to intervene and stop attacks” and said Israel must “stop unilateral measures aimed at destroying the future of a Palestinian state”.
Islamic Jihad refuses to coexist with Israel, preaching its destruction. In the terms of the truce, it wants Israel to stop its attacks on its leaders. Israel rejects this.
“We’ve brought back the ‘elimination’ policy – which is great,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 12 television. “If we reach a ceasefire, there will be no preconditions.”
Israel appears to be hoping that Islamic Jihad, which has run out of rockets and commanders, will unilaterally cease hostilities. Hagari declined to reveal the faction’s remaining arsenal.
In the blockaded Gaza Strip, where residents have endured a decades-long worsening humanitarian crisis, in surrounding Israeli towns, schools and businesses remain closed.
“We can’t sleep at night because we are afraid of bombing,” Mohammad Abu Subah, 24, said outside a bakery in Gaza City. “People don’t know what’s going to happen next, whether it’s a truce or a continuation of the war.”
At least 80 people were injured in the airstrike, which destroyed five buildings and damaged more than 300 apartments, said Salamamarouf, head of the media office of Hamas, which rules the densely populated coastal region.
The Israeli military said more than 100 rockets – many of them improvised – missed and killed four Palestinians, including a 10-year-old girl. Islamic Jihad denies this.
“Israel is again trying to escape responsibility for killing civilians through fabrications and lies,” said faction spokesman Daoud Shehab.
Since Tuesday, Israel has closed border crossings for the movement of people and goods. Israeli authorities estimate that between 30% and 60% of communities around Gaza have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. Sirens sounded Wednesday as far as the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Gaza.
The military said it had arrested 25 people linked to Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank as the firing continued in the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops shot dead a 66-year-old man in the West Bank town of Tulkarm, the Palestinian health ministry said. Troops returned fire after one of them was wounded by the gunman, the military said.
Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank in a 1967 war, an area where Palestinians hope to create an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli troops and settlers withdrew from Gaza in 2005. State-building talks have been frozen since 2014.
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