Second top Islamic Jihad commander killed in an Israeli airstrike

Rockets seen in the sky fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel, over Gaza City, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israel announced on Sunday that it had killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a densely populated Gaza refugee camp, the second such attack since the beginning of its high-stakes military offensive against the militant group on Friday.

The Iranian-backed militant group retaliated by launching hundreds of rockets toward Israel, and the chance that the cross-border fighting would escalate into a full-scale war remained high.

The ruling Hamas group of Gaza, which fought an 11-day war with Israel in May 2021, appears to be staying on the sidelines for the time being, possibly out of fear of Israeli reprisals and the unraveling of economic agreements with Israel, including Israeli work permits for tens of thousands of Gaza residents who strengthen its control.

Khaled Mansour, the commander of Islamic Jihad, was murdered Saturday night in an attack on an apartment complex in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza.

The attack also resulted in the deaths of two additional militants and five civilians, increasing the Palestinian death toll since the commencement of the Israeli offensive on Friday to 31. There were six children and four women among the deceased. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 250 people have been wounded since Friday.

Israel claims that some of the casualties were caused by errant missile fire, including a Saturday incident in which six Palestinians were killed in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Two males were killed on Sunday when a projectile struck their home in the same suburb of Jebaliya. Palestinians blamed Israel, while Israel claimed it was probing whether an errant rocket impacted the region.

Mansour, the commander of the Islamic Jihad in southern Gaza, was in the apartment of a group member when the rocket hit, leveling the three-story building and severely destroying surrounding homes.

Wissam Jouda, who lives adjacent to the building that was struck, remarked, "The house next to us was bombed suddenly and without warning, and in the blink of an eye, everything became black and smoky."

Ahmed al-Qaissi, an additional neighbor, reported that his wife and son were among the injured and had suffered shrapnel wounds. Al-Qaissi consented to have a portion of his home removed to create room for rescue crews.

On Sunday afternoon, as the funeral for Mansour began in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said it was bombing suspected "Islamic Jihad rocket launch sites." Gaza was shaken by the explosions of the strikes, which were accompanied by visible smoke.

The Rafah attack was the bloodiest so far in the current round of combat, begun by Israel on Friday with the assassination of Islamic Jihad's northern Gaza commander.

Israel has stated that it took action against the extremist group due to impending attack threats but has not offered specifics. Less than three months before a general election in which he is running for re-election, the interim prime minister, Yair Lapid, an experienced diplomat but unproven in leading a war, launched the offensive.

In a statement released Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to strike targets in Gaza "precisely and responsibly" to minimize civilian harm. Lapid described the attack that murdered Mansour as "extraordinary."

Lapid stated, "The operation will continue for as long as necessary."

Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed roughly 15 jihadists.

Islamic Jihad has fewer militants and followers than Hamas, and its weaponry arsenal is primarily unknown. Both factions advocate for Israel's destruction, but their priorities differ, with Hamas being bound by the government's demands.

According to the Israeli army, militants in Gaza fired approximately 580 missiles at Israel. The army stated that Israeli air defenses intercepted many of them, with two of the intercepted missiles aimed at Jerusalem. Hamas has more fighters and followers than Islamic Jihad.

Sunday was the first time since last year's Israel-Hamas conflict that air raid sirens sounded in the Jerusalem area.

During cross-border warfare between Israel and Gaza, Jerusalem is frequently a flashpoint. A sensitive holy location in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, was visited by hundreds of Jews on Sunday, including a fiery ultranationalist lawmaker, Itamar Ben Gvir. Under considerable police protection, the visit concluded without incident, according to authorities.

In the past, such excursions by Israeli extremists aiming to demonstrate Israeli claims of sovereignty over contested Jerusalem produced violence. The sacred place straddles the fault line of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is significant to Palestinians' and Israeli Jews' competing narratives.

During midnight searches in West Bank Palestinian cities and villages, Israeli security forces reportedly captured 19 individuals suspected of affiliation to the Islamic Jihad.

The combat began when Israel killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a round of strikes aimed at preventing an expected attack on Friday.

On Sunday, Hamas appeared to continue to avoid the conflict. Strong motivation exists for the group to prevent another war. Last year's Israel-Hamas war, one of four significant clashes and countless smaller fights over the past 15 years, exacted a terrible toll on the region's 2.3 million impoverished Palestinians.

Since the last battle, Israel and Hamas had negotiated implicit agreements based on the exchange of calm for work permits and a slight relaxation of the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt 15 years ago, when Hamas seized control of the territory. Israel has awarded 12,000 work permits to Gazans and is considering issuing an additional 2,000 licenses.

Saturday at noon, the sole power plant in Gaza shut down owing to a lack of fuel. Since Tuesday, Israel has kept its crossings into Gaza closed. With the latest disruption, Gazans have access to energy for only four hours per day, increasing their reliance on private generators and aggravating the territory's chronic power problem during the height of summer.

Publish : 2022-08-08 07:02:00

Give Your Comments