Jerusalem and Gaza
The Israeli military campaign against the Islamic Jihad movement entered its second day on Saturday evening, with the continued air raids on what it said were the targets of militants in Gaza.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 200 people were injured and 24 people were killed in the escalation, including the five-year-old Alaa Qaddoum, who was killed in the first Israeli air strikes on Friday, and two old women. 23, 79. Israel says that most of the dead were activists.
Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Medhat Abbas told CNN that four children were killed Saturday evening in an explosion in Jabalia, north of Gaza.
The cause of the explosion was disputed.
Abbas told CNN that it was the result of an Israeli air strike, but an Israeli government minister speaking to Israeli television after a cabinet meeting said that Israeli forces were not attacking Jabalia at the time of the explosion.
In a later statement, the Israeli military said the explosion was caused by a failed missile launch by militants.
Islamic Jihad, the smaller of the two main militant groups in Gaza, has responded to the Israeli campaign with continuous rocket attacks, which have been launched primarily at Israeli communities living near the Gaza Strip, but have also fired several long-range rockets.
The sirens could be heard on Saturday as far away as Modi’in, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and about 70 kilometers from Gaza.
By Saturday evening, the Israeli military said more than 450 rockets and mortars had been fired from Gaza. The military said nearly 30% were killed inside Gaza.
Most of the remaining missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, although one missile landed on a high-rise apartment building in Sderot.
The Israeli army announced that two Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded when a mortar exploded near the border fence with Gaza. Israel’s emergency services said it had treated 21 people for their injuries, including two who had minor shrapnel wounds.
The United Nations said it was “deeply concerned” by the fighting and appealed to both sides for an immediate de-escalation, warning that ordinary civilians would bear the brunt if the fighting continued.
A Palestinian Ministry of Health official told CNN they are seeing a shortage of medical supplies, adding that hospitals are under pressure due to power outages due to shrinking fuel stocks.
Gaza has only one power plant, and Israel controls the entry of fuel into the Strip. An Israeli army spokesman told reporters on Friday that a fuel shipment was due to enter Gaza, but the diversion was canceled when the military operation against Islamic Jihad began.
The United Nations, through its Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Lynn Hastings, urged Israel to open the crossings it controls, to allow people and goods to enter and exit: “the movement and access of humanitarian workers, for critical medical cases, and for essential goods, including food and fuel, in Gaza, This must not be hindered so that humanitarian needs can be met.”
The violence, the most serious in the region since the Israeli army and Hamas fought an 11-day war in May 2021, began on Friday afternoon when Israel launched what it called a preemptive strike against Islamic Jihad commander Taysir al-Jabari.
The opening shots of the Israeli operation, dubbed ‘Dawn Dawn’, included hits of an anti-tank division that Israel said was about to launch an attack on its forces near the fence in Gaza.
Since then, the Israeli military says it has bombed dozens of additional targets including missile launch sites, weapons manufacturing facilities and military sites.
Statements by Israeli leaders continue to identify Islamic Jihad as the focus of the campaign, which the IDF says has spread to the West Bank by night and arrested 19 suspected militants from locations across the Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, in remarks in English, highlighted Iran on Friday night, saying: “Our battle is not with the people of Gaza. Islamic Jihad is an Iranian proxy, it wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis… We will do everything we can to defend our people.”
The Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank but has a limited presence in Gaza, condemned the Israeli measures and said the international community should “force Israel to stop this aggression”.
Hamas, the preeminent Palestinian faction in Gaza, also blamed Israel for the escalation but has been notably constrained in its response overall, stopping short of threatening retaliatory attacks. Instead, the statements emphasized the phone calls that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh had with international mediators such as Egypt and Qatar with the aim of ending hostilities.
Friday’s strikes come after Israeli forces arrested a prominent leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, Bassam al-Saadi, during a Monday night raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.
During the operation, a 17-year-old Palestinian with links to Islamic Jihad was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers, according to the IDF. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that Israeli forces shot him in the head.
Israel said al-Saadi was one of two wanted suspects in the attack arrested in the raid. Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, said it was massing its forces throughout the Palestinian territories in response. Comments Israel says has pushed its current operation.