Islamic Jihad Fires Barrage of Rockets After IDF Launches Gaza Operation, Kills Terror Commander
Following days of tension with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, the IDF announced the beginning of a “special operation” in the Gaza Strip as it struck a number of targets in the enclave’s north, killing a top commander with the group.
The Islamic Jihad responded by firing dozens of rockets from Gaza at Israel throughout Friday night, many intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, as missile alarms sounded in towns and cities including Ashkelon, Ashdod, Rishon LeZion, and Gan Yavne.
Taysir al-Jabari, the head of the organization’s military wing in the northern Gaza Strip, was killed in the Israeli strikes along with several others, IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials confirmed.
Al-Jabari had “planned to fire an anti-tank missile at civilians and soldiers,” according to a statement from the IDF.
According to the IDF, 15 people were killed in the barrage. The Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health said at least eight people were killed, including a five-year-old girl, with at least 44 wounded.
The operation, dubbed “Breaking Dawn,” is “aimed at removing a concrete threat to Israel and communities surrounding Gaza, and terrorists and their emissaries,” according to a joint statement from Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel,” the statement continued. “Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know: we will find you.”
Israel has deployed extra batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system across the country as Islamic Jihad official Ziad al-Nakhala threatened to launch rockets at Tel Aviv in a statement.
“There are no red lines,” al-Nakhala said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Israel “started the escalation … and must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”
Israel has informed Egyptian mediators that the operation is “limited,” but that if the Hamas terror group intervenes it will expand, according to a report from Israeli public broadcaster Kan.
Shelters were opened in cities across Israel’s South while public gatherings within a range of 50 miles from the Gaza Strip were barred until Saturday evening. The flight path to and from Ben Gurion Airport was also altered due to fears rockets will be launched from Gaza.
United Hatzalah, a volunteer-based emergency medical services organization throughout Israel, raised its alert level to high.
The strikes come four days after Israel closed its two border crossings with Gaza and restricted the movement of Israeli civilians living near the frontier, citing security concerns.
Those measures followed the arrest in the West Bank of two senior members of militant group Islamic Jihad, which has a strong presence in Gaza.