5-yr-old, Senior Militant Among 15 Dead; Islamic Jihad Vows Response

A senior militant from Islamic Jihad and a five-year-old child was among more than 15 people killed on Friday after the Israeli military launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip, prompting the group to declare Isreal had “started a war against our people”.

“We are assuming about 15 killed in action”, army spokesman Richard Hecht was quoted as saying by AFP. “We haven’t finished yet,” he added, describing the operation as a “pre-emptive attack” targeting a senior commander of Islamic Jihad.

Israeli forces bombed targets they said were linked to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Gaza. At least seven people, including a five-year old child, had been killed and 40 wounded in the strikes, local health officials had earlier told media.

“The IDF is currently striking in the Gaza Strip. A special situation has been declared on the Israeli home front,” the military said in a statement. A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official said Tayseer al-Jaabari, a senior commander in the movement, had been killed in the strikes, which hit several targets around the densely populated strip.

The attack came after days of escalating tensions following the arrest of a Palestinian militant leader, Bassam al-Saadi during a raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week.

It subsequently closed off all Gaza crossings and some nearby roads over fears of retaliatory attacks from the group, which has a stronghold in Gaza.

The attack has also prompted vows of retaliation from the militant group, which said it could hit Tel Aviv in response.

In a statement broadcast on Al Mayadeen television, a pro-Iranian Lebanese channel, Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Al-Nakhala vowed retaliation for the strikes. “There are no red lines in this battle and Tel Aviv will fall under the rockets of resistance, as well as all Israeli cities,” he said.

The Islamic Jihad also said Israel had “started a war against our people”.

“We collectively must defend ourselves and our people. We will not allow the enemy’s policy of undermining the resistance and our national perseverance,” the group said in a statement.

Gaza, a narrow strip of land where some 2.3 million people live on a patch of 365 square kilometres (140 square miles), has been a constant point of conflict ever since Hamas took control of the area in 2007.

Israel has fought five conflicts with Gaza since 2009, the most recent an 11-day war in May 2021, when Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel and Israel pounded the strip with airstrikes.

(With inputs from Reuters, AFP)

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