AFP – The Israeli army confirmed on Saturday that in the past two days, the main “military” leaders of the “Islamic Jihad” in Gaza were “neutralized” during Israeli raids targeting this armed Palestinian movement.
“The high command of the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralized,” Oded Pasiuk, chief of operations in the Israeli army, said in a statement, a copy of which was received by AFP.
The Palestinian death toll rose to 24, including 6 children, as a result of the raids launched by Israel for the second day in a row in the Gaza Strip, targeting mainly the Islamic Jihad movement, which responded with rocket fire, according to the Ministry of Health in the Strip.
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In a statement, the ministry announced that “24 martyrs, including 6 children, a woman and an elderly woman, and 203 different injuries since the beginning of the Israeli aggression on Gaza,” while Israel denied in a statement its responsibility for the killing of children in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
The bodies of at least four children were taken to a hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, according to AFP photographers and eyewitnesses.
However, the Israeli government said in a statement that its forces “did not bomb Jabalia during the past hours,” adding, “It was conclusively proven that the incident was the result of a failed missile launch by the Islamic Jihad.”
“We have videos that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident was not the result of an Israeli raid,” she added.
Since Friday afternoon, Israel has confirmed that it targeted sites belonging to the Islamic Jihad movement, of which 15 of its members were killed, according to the Israeli army.
An Israeli official reported that about 400 rockets and mortar shells were fired during the past 24 hours. The Israeli military said the Iron Dome system intercepted most of them.
The Israeli army expects to continue raids on the Gaza Strip for a week. A military spokesman told AFP that the army was “preparing to continue the operation for a week,” stressing that “no ceasefire negotiations are currently taking place.”
For the first time since the start of the latest wave of violence, sirens sounded in Tel Aviv, while Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad movement, announced in a press statement its responsibility for firing rockets into the city.
“As part of Operation Unity of Squares, the Al-Quds Brigades bombard Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot with large rocket barrages,” the statement said.
Egyptian sources told AFP that Cairo, the historical mediator between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza, is trying to mediate.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech that he was working “tirelessly” to restore calm.
A member of the Islamic Jihad’s political bureau, Muhammad al-Hindi, said in a statement that “the battle is still in its infancy and the companies have not completed their response (..) There are international and Egyptian parties trying to explore opportunities for calm, but we confirm that the battle continues.”
Since Friday afternoon, Israel confirms that it targeted sites belonging to the Islamic Jihad movement.
Al-Quds Brigades announced on Friday that it had fired more than a hundred missiles at Israel, stressing that this was just a “first response” to the assassination of one of its leaders, Taysir al-Jabari, in an Israeli strike.
The worst outbreak of violence between the two sides since last year’s blitzkrieg has deprived the strip, sandwiched between Egypt, the Mediterranean and Israel of 2.3 million people, of its only power plant.
Mohamed Thabet, a spokesman for the Electricity Distribution Company, said Saturday that the power station was closed “due to a lack of fuel”. Usually, diesel for the station is trucked in from Egypt or Israel, which closed its border crossings with Gaza on Tuesday due to security concerns.
With the announcement of the shutdown of the power plant in the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health announced that “the countdown to stopping health services has begun within 72 hours,” stressing that “the coming hours are critical and difficult.”
She explained that the power outage threatens work in the vital departments of the hospitals.
On one side of the border, sirens sound continuously in Israeli towns, warning of bombing attacks. On the other hand, Gaza City seems paralyzed with its mostly deserted streets and closed shops.
Israeli forces in the West Bank arrested 19 members of Islamic Jihad, which Israel, the United States and the European Union consider a “terrorist organization.”
Israel launched its air strikes on Gaza four days after it closed two border crossings with Gaza and imposed restrictions on the movement of Israeli civilians living close to the border, for security reasons.
After that, it arrested two leaders of the Islamic Jihad movement, one of whom is Bassem Al-Saadi, who is accused of masterminding a series of attacks against the Hebrew state.
Israel confirmed that it launched a “preemptive” operation against the Islamic Jihad movement, stressing that the group was planning an imminent attack after days of tension at the Gaza border.
After that, Israel and Islamic Jihad announced the killing of a prominent leader in the movement, Taysir al-Jabari, in a strike targeting a building west of Gaza City on Friday. The movement considered the Israeli bombing a “declaration of war” and responded by firing a barrage of missiles towards Israel.
Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since its takeover of Gaza in 2007, including the May war last year.
Most Western countries consider Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations.
The cycle of violence between Israel and Islamic Jihad began in 2019 after the Hebrew state killed Baha Abu al-Atta, who was replaced by al-Jabari. The two sides exchanged fire for several days without Hamas participating in the battles.
Jamal Al-Fadi, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that Hamas does not want to be “dragged into an all-out war,” and “since it is not participating,” the new violence is supposed to end “in the coming days.”
For his part, Mairav Zonssen, an expert with the International Crisis Group, said that “if more civilians are killed, it will be considered obliged to respond.”
Since Tuesday, Israel has closed all of its border crossings, forcing thousands of Gazans who hold work permits in Israel to stay in their homes.
In Tel Aviv to the north, a friendly soccer match between Atletico Madrid and Juventus Turin was canceled for “security reasons”.
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