IDF Airstrikes Hit Gaza, Targeting Islamic Jihad; Retaliatory Rockets Fired Into Israel

By Matis Glenn

The IDF launched military operations in the Gaza strip Friday afternoon, targeting terrorists in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization with airstrikes, after the Damascus-based group threatened to attack Israel, the IDF announced late Friday afternoon. On Friday night, rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.

Tensions on Israel’s border with Gaza have been high this week, after Islamic Jhad threatened an attack on Israel following the arrest of Bassam al-Saadi, one of its officials, on Monday. Israeli communities near the Gaza border have been shuttered since the threats were made, with road closures and restrictions of movement in or out of the areas, according to a report in i24 News.

Islamic Jihad made several demands, sending messages to the Egyptian intelligence service: the cessation of raids in Yehudah and Shomron, especially in Jenin; and the release of prisoners al-Saadi and Khalil Awawdeh. A Palestinian source told i24 that Islamic Jihad absolutely insisted on the release of Awawdeh, a Palestinian resident in a village near Chevron who has been on a hunger strike for over 140 days, and the group would have have been willing to forego its other demands.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a joint statement that Israel “will not allow terrorist organizations to set the agenda in towns near the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of Israel.”

The IDF is calling the operation “Alot HaShachar,” or “Breaking Dawn.”

Airstrikes began around 4:30 p.m. local time. “We successfully eliminated [Tayseer] Jabari and also targeted two squads on their way to an anti-tank attack, and killed the commander of the anti-tank formation, Abdullah Kadum,” said an IDF spokesperson.

In the Rafah area, there are an unconfirmed number of deaths after an Islamic Jihad anti-tank missile unit missed its target and was immediately fired upon.

Thirty terrorists have been injured in five airstrikes across the Gaza strip.

Hamas released a statement after the airstrikes. “The resistance will defend our people,” after Israel has said that it is trying to keep Hamas away from the fighting.

Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, tweeted Friday, “Deeply concerned by the ongoing escalation between Palestinian militants & Israel, including the targeted killing today of [an Islamic Jihad] leader inside Gaza. Don’t let the situation slide into the avoidable.” To which Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan replied, “While the Palestinian Islamic Jihad is launching missiles at Israeli civilians, the UN envoy expresses ‘deep concern’ for the neutralization of a senior terrorist behind an imminent attack on Israelis. Will he also express deep concern over the neutralization of al-Zawahiri?” referring to the al-Quada leader killed in Afghanistan this week by an American drone.

The Israeli government has sent out a poster with instructions for areas close to Gaza. Eshkol Regional Council instructs residents to remain close to bomb shelters and Hof Ashkelon council issued a similar message to residents.

Ashdod has opened its bomb shelters as well, and beaches have been evacuated.

“The proactive action taken by the security forces, and the elimination of the head of the snake is the right and just action,” Tamir Idan, Head of the Regional Council of S’dot Negev said in a statement. “I support the government, the IDF and the security forces and I am sure that they knew how to give the appropriate response and deal with our enemies with a heavy hand.”

Shortly after Shabbos began, Reuters reported that sirens have been sounding in central and southern Israel after rockets were fired into Israel.

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