Israel kills another insurgent commander wave of clashes in Gaza

2023-05-11 07:28:02

GAZA CITY (AP) — Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip killed a fourth military commander on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 25 in the latest wave of violence. Israel stood by for more Palestinian missiles amid reports of weak attempts by Egypt to broker a ceasefire.

This has been the worst clash between Israel and the Palestinian insurgency in Gaza in months, and among the fatalities there are also women and children. The episode coincides with a time of growing tensions and an uptick in violence over the last year in the West Bank.

In an attack on the Islamic Jihad insurgent group early Thursday, the Israeli army reported the death of Ali Ghali, commander of the militia’s missile squad, when his apartment was hit.

Army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Army Radio that the attack killed two other insurgents and the rest of the building was left intact. “The apartment was hit in a very precise way,” he explained. “I hope this will lead to a reduction, a strike and a disruption of Islamic Jihad’s missile launch capability.”

According to Palestinian media, the operation attacked the top floor of a building in a Qatari construction residential complex in the southern Strip, killing at least two people, including the commander. The Health Ministry in Gaza said 25 people have been killed since the fighting broke out.

Islamic Jihad indicated that Ghali was the commander responsible for its missile squad and was part of its decision-making body.

After intense clashes on Wednesday, when shells rained down on southern and central Israel and aircraft bombed the Palestinian enclave, Egyptian state television announced that Egypt, which usually acts as a mediator between the parties, had negotiated a ceasefire. But the violence continued into the early hours of Thursday and no one seemed to back down.

The Israeli army maintains that its operation has focused on insurgents with what it described as precision attacks, but among those killed are minors, including a 4-year-old. Hagari said on Army Radio that a quarter of the shells fired during this round of fighting landed on Gaza itself, killing at least four people, including a 10-year-old girl, two 16-year-olds and a 51-year-old man.

In a speech broadcast on prime-time television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country dealt the fighters a heavy blow. But he warned: “This round is not over.”

“We tell the terrorists and those who send them. We see them everywhere. They cannot hide and we decide the place and the moment to attack them,” he stated, adding that Israel will also decide when calm will return.

Israel began its attacks on Islamic Jihad commanders Tuesday night, killing three in their homes and at least 10 other civilians, mostly women and children. The army indicated that its operation focuses on the group’s infrastructure in the enclave.

This triggered a wave of shells on Wednesday that set off anti-aircraft alarms in the south and center of the country. Damage from the impact of the rockets was reported in empty buildings after the population fled the area. According to the Israeli authorities, more than 500 rockets were fired, most of which were intercepted or fell on open ground.

These are the most intense fighting between the two sides in months and bring the region one step closer to all-out war. But in a sign of restraint, Israel has avoided attacking the ruling group, Hamas, reaching out only to Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction, and Hamas, for its part, appears to be staying out of it.

Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since the group seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Islamic Jihad stated that it will continue to launch rockets. Mohamad al-Hindi, an official with the group, said a sticking point in the talks was that the Palestinians wanted Israel’s commitment to halt targeted killing operations, such as those that killed three senior militia commanders early on Tuesday. .

As the shells streaked across the sky, Israeli television channels showed air defense systems intercepting rockets in the sky over Tel Aviv. In the nearby suburb of Ramat Gan, residents lay face down on the ground as they took cover.

The army said schools will remain closed and restrictions on mass gatherings in the south of the country will remain in place until at least Friday. Residents were ordered to stay close to bomb shelters.

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Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel.

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