Israel strikes kill top Gaza militant, triggering rocket barrage

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Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes Friday, killing more than 15 people, including a top militant, and triggering a barrage of retaliatory rocket fire from the territory.

Israel said it launched a pre-emptive strike against Islamic Jihad, killing a top commander of the Palestinian militant group it blames for a series of recent attacks inside Israel. 

There were no immediate reports of casualties inside Israel, as officials in the country’s commercial capital Tel Aviv said they were opening the city’s bomb shelters.

Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, most recently in May of last year. Islamic Jihad is a separate group, but aligned with Hamas. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said the strikes were a “precise counter-terror operation against an immediate threat”. 

Flames poured out of a building in Gaza City following the first round of strikes, while wounded Palestinians were evacuated by medics.

Five-year-old Alaa Kaddum had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her body was carried by her father at her funeral.

Hundreds of mourners gathered in Gaza City for the funerals of Jabari and others killed in the air strikes.

Israeli tanks were lined up along the border and the military said Thursday it was reinforcing its troops.

“We are engaging with different parties and urge all sides for calm,” he wrote on Twitter.

– ‘Pay the price’ –

The measures follow the arrest in the occupied West Bank of two senior members of Islamic Jihad, which has a strong presence in Gaza. The militant group did not launch attacks on Israeli territory after the arrests.

Hamas, the militant group which rules Gaza, said Israel has “committed a new crime for which it must pay the price”.

Lapid, who was meeting with his security chiefs through the day, said: “Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know — we will find you.”

The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the Israeli military action amounted to a “dangerous escalation” and called on the international community to curb Israeli “aggression.”

The measure follows four days of road closures and other restrictions in the border area.

Gaza’s only power station is at risk of imminent outage due to a lack of fuel supplies through Israel, its manager warned on Thursday.

Israeli forces detained Bassem al-Saadi and another senior member of Islamic Jihad. A 17-year-old member of the group was shot dead by Israeli forces during the raid.

Originally published as Israel strikes kill top Gaza militant, triggering rocket barrage


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