Israeli aircraft strike Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza Strip
May 9, 2023 By Fares Akram, The Associated Press
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli aircraft conducted strikes early Tuesday on Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said, and the group said three senior commanders were killed in the attacks.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said a number of people were killed and injured in the airstrikes. It did not elaborate. The Israeli military said the aerial bombings were directed at the residences of three senior commanders of the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad group.
Witnesses said an explosion hit the top floor of an apartment building in Gaza City and a house in the southern city of Rafah. Airstrikes continued in the early hours, targeting militant training sites.
The Israeli army said the aerial bombings, codenamed “Operation Shield and Arrow,” targeted Khalil Bahtini, the Islamic Jihad commander for northern Gaza Strip; Tareq Izzeldeen, the group’s intermediary between its Gaza and West Bank members; and Jehad Ghanam, the secretary of the Islamic Jihad’s military council. It added the three were responsible for recent rocket fire toward Israel.
Islamic Jihad, which is smaller than the dominant, ruling Hamas movement, confirmed that the three were among the dead.
The airstrikes come as tension boils between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the militant Hamas group. The tension is linked to increasing violence in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has been conducting near daily raids for the past months to detain Palestinians suspected in planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis.
In anticipation of Palestinian rocket attacks in response to the airstrikes, the Israeli military issued instructions advising residents of communities within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters.
Last week, Gaza militants fired several salvos of rockets toward southern Israel, and Israeli military responded with airstrikes following the death of a hunger-striking senior member of the Islamic Jihad in Israeli custody. The exchange of fire ended with a fragile ceasefire mediated by Egypt, the United Nations, and Qatar.
The airstrikes are similar to ones in 2022 in which Israel bombed places housing commanders of Islamic Jihad group, setting off a three-day blitz that saw the group loosing its two top commanders and other dozens of militants.
Israel says the raids in the West Bank are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see the attacks as further entrenchment of Israel’s 56-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for a future independent state.
So far, 105 Palestinians, about half of them are militants or alleged attackers, were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the start of 2023, according to an Associated Press tally.
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