The Israeli army launched airstrikes on Gaza against Islamic Jihad targets Friday evening, killing one of the group's commanders.
Local health officials in Gaza said at least eight others had been killed in the strikes — including a 5-year-old child — and over 50 wounded.
Thousands of Israelis living in villages and towns near the Gaza border were instructed to stay home while the Israel Defense Forces launched the series of airstrikes.
Tensions have escalated over the past four days following the arrest in the West Bank of Islamic Jihad senior official Bassem Saadi. Since then, the group has threatened Israel it intends to act against it. It now seems that the group was planning to launch rockets at the south of Israel.
News of the IDF operation was released a short while ago. The IDF announced it had struck targets in the northern Gaza Strip, including head of the Islamic Jihad northern district command Taysir al-Jabari. Jabari, who was killed in the fire, had replaced Bahaa Abu el-Atta, who was killed in an Israeli aerial strike in November 2019. The IDF also said Jabari had commanded last year the launching of hundreds of rockets and missiles against Israel during operation Guardian of the Walls, including anti-tank-guided missiles.
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Two anti-missile Islamic Jihad cells were reportedly also neutralized in the attacks, which were carried out by fighter jets and armed drones. The IDF did not offer details about the injured or casualties.
After today’s attacks, the IDF declared a special emergency situation on the homefront, placing Iron Dome anti-missile defense batteries in the center of Israel, in Jerusalem and in the coastal Sharon region. Routes in the area have been blocked in the past three days, preventing residents from traveling to work or taking their children to school.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid said today, "A short while ago, the IDF attacked Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip. This operation aims at removing a concrete threat to the citizens of the State of Israel, especially the environ-Gaza communities, and to strike at terrorists and the people who send them. This operation is conducted in cooperation between the IDF, the intelligence agencies and the Shin Bet."
Lapid then added that the government "won't allow terrorist organizations to set the agenda for the communities in the environ-Gaza region and for the citizens of the State of Israel. Anyone trying to harm Israel must know that we will get to him. Our security forces will act against the Islamic Jihad terrorists to remove the threat from the citizens of Israel."
Echoing Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted, "We will allow no one to threaten or harm the citizens of Israel. Whoever tries will be hurt."
Hamas has so far kept away from the escalation. The IDF said it was hoping the Gaza-ruling group will stay out of the fighting. Earlier today, Israeli authorities approved for fuel tanks to be transported into Gaza to prevent a total shutdown of the only power plant in the Strip.