Airstrikes and rocket fire push Israel and Gaza into second day of fighting

  • Fifteen killed, dozens injured – Palestinian Ministry of Health
  • At least 200 rockets fired at Israel-military
  • Israel killed the commander of Islamic Jihad in Gaza on Friday

GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Israeli planes struck in Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets deep into Israel on Saturday, a day after an Israeli operation against the Islamic Jihad militant group sparked a cross-border outbreak which ended more than a year of relative calm.

Islamic Jihad fired salvoes of rockets into Israel’s commercial center of Tel Aviv, after Israel killed one of the group’s senior commanders in a surprise daytime airstrike on a tower in the city of Tel Aviv. Gaza on Friday. Read more

Israel struck more Islamic Jihad militants and weapons depots hidden in residential areas on Saturday, the army said. The shelling of at least five homes sent huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza and ambulances rushed through the streets.

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The Israeli strikes killed 15 Palestinians, including at least four other Islamic Jihad militants and three civilians, including a child, the Palestinian health ministry said. He added that dozens more were injured.

Palestinian militants fired at least 200 rockets into Israel – most of them intercepted, setting off air raid sirens and sending people running towards bomb shelters. No serious casualties were reported, the Israel Ambulance Service said.

Egypt said it was engaged in intensive talks to calm the situation. Further escalation would largely depend on the willingness of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, to join the fighting.

An Egyptian intelligence delegation led by Major General Ahmed Abdelkhaliq arrived in Israel on Saturday and will travel to Gaza for mediation talks, two Egyptian security sources said. They hoped to secure a one-day ceasefire in order to complete the talks, the sources added.

Islamic Jihad has signaled that no ceasefire is imminent. “Now is the time for resistance, not a truce,” a group official told Reuters. The group did not say how many of its members have been killed since Friday.

CONCERN

Around 2.3 million Palestinians are crammed into Gaza’s narrow coastal strip, with Israel and Egypt severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade , citing security concerns.

Israel halted the planned transport of fuel to Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the territory’s only power plant and reducing electricity to about 8 hours a day and drawing warnings from health officials that the hospitals would be badly affected within days.

The border has been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel.

UN and EU envoys to the Middle East expressed concern over the violence and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Twitter that “Israel has the right to protect itself.”

The streets of Gaza were largely deserted on Saturday afternoon. At the site where Islamic Jihad commander-in-chief Tayseer al-Jaabari was killed, rubble, glass and furniture littered the street.

In Israel, streets in border towns were largely empty as rocket-ignited bushfires spread into nearby fields.

Islamic Jihad said it fired a missile at Israel’s main international gateway, Ben Gurion Airport, but the rocket did not reach a distance of about 20 kilometers (12 miles). The Civil Aviation Authority said the airport was operating normally.

Tensions rose this week after Israeli forces arrested an Islamic Jihad commander in the occupied West Bank, prompting threats of reprisals from the group. The military said it apprehended 19 other members of the group there on Saturday.

Israel’s defense minister said dozens of the group’s rocket installations in Gaza had been destroyed. Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the operation thwarted an imminent attack by Islamic Jihad, which is backed by Iran and designated as a terrorist organization by the West. Read more

Israeli political analysts said the military operation provided Lapid with an opportunity to boost his security credentials ahead of the Nov. 1 election.

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Writing by Maayan Lubell, additional reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, Amir Cohen in Sderot and Eli Belzon in Ashkelon; edited by Robert Birsel, Jason Neely and Christina Fincher

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Nidal Al Mughrabi

Thomson Reuters

Senior correspondent with nearly 25 years of experience covering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including several wars and the signing of the first historic peace agreement between the two sides.

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