Islamic Jihad said in a statement that one of its senior leaders, Tayseer Al Jabari, was killed in the Israeli attack. He was the commander of the Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, and a member of its military council.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said at least 10 people had died, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman. A further 75 people were injured. Israel claims most of those killed were militants.
A CNN producer in Gaza saw medical workers carrying two bodies out of a building called the Palestine Towers that was hit during one of the strikes.
The military operation, called “Breaking Dawn,” targets the smaller of Gaza’s two major militant groups, the Islamic Jihad, according to a statement by the Israeli military.
The Israeli military said the main focus of its military operations was a preemptive airstrike on Al-Jabari and an attack on two anti-tank units that were attempting to carry out attacks on Israeli forces.
In a phone call with reporters on Friday night, a military spokesman said the two squads had been pursued for days before the Air Force carried out the operation, as two militant units came so close to Israel. , added that Israel had faced an imminent threat for several days.The fence that separates Gaza from Israel.
A “special situation” has been declared around Gaza in anticipation of possible rocket launches and other retaliatory attacks, the Israeli military said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “The goal of this operation is to eliminate a concrete threat to Israeli civilians and civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip, and to eliminate terrorists and their supporters. It’s about targeting,” he said. said in a joint statement.
“The Israeli government will not allow Gaza terrorist organizations to set agendas and threaten Israeli citizens in areas bordering Gaza. Anyone who seeks to harm Israel should know We’ll find you,” Rapid said.
Islamic Jihad vowed to respond. “All options are open, using whatever means the Palestinian resistance has, whether inside or outside Gaza,” spokesman Daud Shehab told Al Jazeera. “The battlefield is open…the Resistance will respond with full force. I won’t say how, but it is inevitable.”
Meanwhile, Gantz approved the call-up of 25,000 reservists on Friday night, signaling Israel’s readiness for a full-scale escalation.
Those immediately convened will strengthen the military’s Southern Command, including the area around Gaza, as well as units operating Israel’s air defense system, according to the defense ministry.
Late on Friday night, sirens signaling rocket launches were heard in the southern town of Sderot and other villages near Gaza. Previously, sirens blared in Bat Yam, a few kilometers south of Tel Aviv, and Yavneh, between Tel Aviv and Ashdod. Israeli media reported that many rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, but there were no reports of casualties inside Israel.
Between Friday and Saturday night local time (5pm ET Friday), Palestinian militants fired 118 rockets into Israel, according to Israeli military officials.
Eleven of the launches failed to cross the fence separating Gaza and Israel, the military said.
The rest were intercepted or landed in the open, military officials said.
The Israeli army said it continued to hit Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, including a rocket launch site near the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza. The military also said it was attacking a weapons production facility.
Hamas, the extremist group that controls Gaza, appears to be moving cautiously in the midst of a serious escalation between Israel and Islamic Jihad.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniye holds Israel responsible for the escalation, but his recent statements did not go so far as to threaten attacks or warn of reprisals in response. Instead, they have emphasized the role of international mediators and Hamas’ involvement in talks aimed at ending hostilities.
“The Israeli occupation takes full responsibility for the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip,” a Hamas statement quoted Haniyah. “In a phone call with a senior Egyptian intelligence official, Haniyah reaffirmed the need to immediately stop the ongoing Israeli shelling of the besieged Gaza Strip,” the statement continued.
According to an earlier release from Hamas, Haniyah also spoke by phone to Qatar’s foreign minister to put a lid on the violence.
When militants in Israel and Gaza fought a brief war in May 2021 (the fourth such war in 13 years), Hamas was clearly in the lead. It sought to use the escalating violence in and around Jerusalem’s Aqsa his mosque as a pretext to launch rockets into Jerusalem, which sparked the 11-day conflict.
Tor Wensland, the senior UN Middle East official, said he was deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation between the two countries.
Referring to the murder of a five-year-old girl, Wensland said, “Any attack on civilians cannot be justified,” addressing the militants, saying, “The rocket launches must cease immediately and I call on all sides to do more,” he said. escalation. “
The United Nations, along with Egypt, has played a key brokering role in restoring a ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian militants after hostilities erupted.
Wensland said the United Nations is “fully engaged with all involved” to avoid further aggravation.
Friday’s strike came after Israeli forces captured a senior Islamic jihad commander, Bassam al-Saadi, during a Monday night raid in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin.
A 17-year-old Palestinian involved in Islamic Jihad was shot dead in a shootout with Israeli soldiers during the operation, the Israeli military said. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said he was shot in the head by Israeli forces.
Saadi was one of two wanted terrorist suspects arrested in the attack, according to Israel. The Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said it was mobilizing troops across the Palestinian territory.
Israeli operations have been repeated in and around Jenin in recent months.Thirty Palestinians have been killed in raids since the beginning of the year, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Neri Zilber of Jerusalem contributed to this report.