Second top Islamic Jihad commander killed in Israeli airstrike

Gaza City, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel said on Sunday it killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in an overcrowded Gaza refugee camp, the second such targeted attack since it launched its high-profile attack against the terrorist group just before the weekend. -level military offensive was launched.

The Iran-backed militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, and the risk of cross-border fighting turning into a full-fledged war remains high.

Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, which fought an 11-day war with Israel in May 2021, appears to be on edge for now, possibly because it fears Israeli retaliation and undoing economic understanding with Israel , including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents. which strengthens its control.

Islamic Jihad commander Khalid Mansour was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafa refugee camp in southern Gaza late Saturday.

Two other terrorists and five civilians were also killed in the attack, bringing the Palestinian death toll since the start of the Israeli strike on Friday to 31. The dead included six children and four women. The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 250 people had been injured since Friday.

Israel says some of the deaths were mistakenly attributed to rockets, including an incident at the Jebalia refugee camp in northern Gaza that killed six Palestinians on Saturday. On Sunday, a projectile hit a house in Jebalia in the same area, killing two people. The Palestinians blamed Israel, while Israel said it was investigating whether the region was hit by a false rocket.

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

“Suddenly, without warning, the house next to us was bombed and in the blink of an eye everything was black and dusty,” said Wissam Jouda, who lives next to the targeted building.

Another neighbor, Ahmed al-Kaisi, said his wife and son were among those injured by the shrapnel. To make way for rescuers, al-Qaisi agreed to demolish a portion of his house.

The Rafah strike was the deadliest so far in the current round of fighting, which Israel launched on Friday with the targeted killing of the commander of Islamic Jihad for northern Gaza.

Israel has said it took action against the terrorist group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack, but did not provide details. Acting Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a veteran diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, exposed the offensive less than three months before the general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.

In a statement on Sunday, Lapid said the military would continue to attack targets in Gaza “to minimize damage to non-combatants”. Lapid said that the strike that killed Mansour was “an extraordinary achievement.”

“Operations will continue for as long as necessary,” Lapid said.

Israel estimates that about 15 terrorists have been killed in its airstrikes.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its weapons arsenal. Both groups call for the destruction of Israel, but have different priorities, constrained by the demands of the Hamas regime.

The Israeli military said militants fired 580 rockets at Israel in Gaza. The military said its air defenses had intercepted several of them, including two killed, who were fired towards Jerusalem. Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas.

Airstrike sirens were sounded in Jerusalem for the first time since last year’s Israel-Hamas war.

Jerusalem is generally a flash point during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gwir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The tour ended without any incident amid heavy police security, police said.

Such protest visits by Israeli hardliners have sought to underline Israel’s claims of sovereignty over contested Jerusalem, which has sparked violence in the past. The holy site sits on the fault line of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and is the center of rival narratives of Palestinians and Israeli Jews.

In Palestinian cities and towns in the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they detained 19 people suspected of having links to Islamic Jihad during overnight raids.

The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of attacks on Friday, which Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.

As of Sunday, Hamas still appeared to have stayed out of the fight. The group has a strong incentive to avoid another war. Last year’s Israel-Hamas war, one of four major conflicts and several minor battles in the past 15 years, took a staggering toll on the poor region’s 2.3 million Palestinian residents.

Since the last war, Israel and Hamas have negotiated a trade permit for work permits and a tacit agreement based on the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt 15 years ago when Hamas occupied the region. Israel has issued 12,000 work permits to Gaza workers, and has blocked the possibility of granting another 2,000 permits.

The only power plant in the Gaza Maidan came to a standstill on Saturday afternoon due to a lack of fuel. Israel has closed its crossing point in Gaza since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans could only use electricity for four hours a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the region’s chronic power crisis amid the extreme heat.

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Ben Zion reported from Jerusalem.

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