GAZA CITY, GAZA (AP) — Israel carried out a series of airstrikes in populated areas of the Gaza Strip early Tuesday morning, killing three senior commanders of the Islamic Jihad Group and at least 10 civilians, it said. Palestinian health officials said. Two of the commander’s wives, several children, and other bystanders were killed.
The attack set the stage for what is likely to be a new round of heavy fighting. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 20 people were injured, some in serious or critical condition.
Israel said it also targeted several combat training grounds before airstrikes ceased at dawn. After a lull, the Israeli military said fighter jets struck militants carrying anti-tank guided missiles in the enclave’s southern city of Khan Younis late Tuesday. The Palestinian Civil Defense Authority reported that two people had died without immediately identifying them.
At noon, tens of thousands attended two funerals, at least 10 bodies were carried out on stretchers, and a large march in Gaza City took place. The child’s coffin was carried next to the coffin of his parents.
Such targeted killings are rare, and in the past, Palestinian militant groups have retaliated with heavy barrages of rockets.
In anticipation of the new rocket launches, the Israeli military advised residents of communities within 25 miles (40 km) of Gaza to stay close to designated air-raid shelters.
Israel’s Home Front Command has ordered the closure of schools, beaches and highways in cities and towns in southern Israel, as well as restrictions on public gatherings.
The military said the three targeted men were responsible for the recent rocket launches into Israel.
They were identified as Khalil Bertini, an Islamic Jihad commander in the northern Gaza Strip. Tarek Izerdeen is the mediator of the group between members of Gaza and the West Bank. and Jihad Ghanam, secretary of the Islamic Jihad Military Council.
Islamic Jihad, which is smaller than the Iran-backed Gaza ruling Hamas Group, has confirmed three deaths.
In a statement, the group said the wives of three commanders were killed, but witnesses and family members said only the wives of two commanders were killed. He said the people included four women and four children.
The Russian diplomatic delegation in Ramallah, West Bank, said one of the killed men, Jamal Haswan, was a Russian citizen and that his wife and son were also killed. Kaswan was a dentist who lived downstairs in Izerdeen in Gaza City.
The Israeli airstrikes were condemned by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayya, Jordan’s foreign ministry and the Egyptian government.
UN Special Envoy for the Middle East Tol Wensland said he was “extremely alarmed”, condemning the civilian deaths and calling on all sides to “exercise maximum restraint”.
Dawood Shahab, an Islamic Jihad official, said there would be a “unified Palestinian response” to strikes when and where Palestine chose.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah has warned that Israel will “pay the price” for the killings. “Assassinating a leader in a dangerous operation would bring more resistance to the occupiers than it would bring them security,” Haniye, who lives in exile, said in a statement.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas are both Iran-backed groups that oppose Israel’s presence and have large stockpiles of rockets and other weapons.
In recent years, the larger and more powerful Hamas has largely remained on the sidelines while forcing Islamic Jihad to carry out attacks. After being killed in a hunger strike, he bombed Israel with dozens of rockets.
However, Islamic Jihad says it will coordinate its response to Hamas as part of the so-called Joint Operations Room, an umbrella for Hamas-influenced Gaza militant groups. Islamic Jihad is closer to Iran than Hamas.
If Hamas joins the fight, the Israeli reaction will be even more intense. Two years ago, Israel and Hamas fought an 11-day war in which more than 250 Palestinians were killed and Israel toppled homes and skyscrapers in coastal enclaves. Thirteen people died in Israel.
“We must prepare for all contingencies, including prolonged operations and increased range,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant told local government leaders in southern Israel.
The air strikes came at a time of heightened tensions between Israeli and Gaza militants. In part, Israel has carried out near-daily raids for months to detain Palestinians suspected of planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis in the occupied West Bank. Associated with increased violence. Members of Islamic Jihad are often the targets of attacks.
Gaza militants fired several rockets into southern Israel last week, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes after the death of tje jimger striker. The shootout ended in a fragile ceasefire brokered by Egypt, the UN and Qatar.
The air strikes, similar to Israel’s 2022 bombing of a site housing an Islamic Jihad group commander, saw the group lose two top commanders and dozens of other militants. A three-day blitzkrieg has begun.
Israel says the West Bank raid is intended to dismantle militant networks and deter future attacks. The Palestinians see the attack as a further consolidation of Israel’s 56-year unrestricted land occupation that they seek for a future independent state.
So far, 105 Palestinians, about half of whom have been identified as militants or attackers, have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since early 2023, according to an Associated Press tally. bottom. During the same period, at least 20 people were killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel.
Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion from Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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