UPDATE ON THE SITUATION – This is the worst confrontation between the Jewish state and armed organizations in Gaza since the eleven-day war in May 2021, which left 260 dead on the Palestinian side. Arrests also took place in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and Israel continued their exchange of fire on Saturday, which has already left a dozen Palestinians dead, the worst outbreak of violence between the two enemies since a blitzkrieg last year.
At 8:30 a.m. local time (0530 GMT), as rocket warnings continued to sound in Israeli towns adjacent to the blockaded Palestinian territory, Gaza City was paralyzed, streets deserted and shops closed, according to a reporter from AFP on the spot.
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The Israeli army continues its strikes across the enclave which have targeted sites belonging to Islamic Jihad, including the manufacture of weapons, according to it. Fifteen fighters were killed in the raids that began Friday afternoon, the army said, while Gaza authorities reported 12 dead, including a five-year-old girl, and more than 80 injured.
Shooting from Gaza also continued, without causing any casualties or damage, according to the army. The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds brigades, said on Friday after a salvo of more than 100 rockets towards Israeli soil that it was only a “first answerto the assassination of one of its leaders in an Israeli strike.
Overnight, Israeli forces also arrested in the West Bank, territory occupied since 1967 by the Jewish state, 19 members of Islamic Jihad, an Islamist organization considered terrorist by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
It was the arrest earlier this week of a leader of the group in the occupied West Bank that led to this new armed confrontation. The Israeli authorities said they feared retaliatory actions from Gaza, a microterritory ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas and where Islamic Jihad is well established, and launched a “preemptive attack“.
This is the worst confrontation between the Jewish state and armed organizations in Gaza since the 11-day war in May 2021, which left 260 dead on the Palestinian side, including combatants, and 14 dead in Israel, including a soldier, according to local authorities.
Egypt, a historic intermediary between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza, is trying to establish a mediation “in order to calm the situation and preserve lives and propertyand could host an Islamic Jihad delegation on Saturday, Egyptian officials told AFP in Gaza. But an Israeli military spokesman quickly denied the remarks, stating that the army “not currently conducting ceasefire negotiations“.
After the initial raids, Islamic Jihad accused the Jewish state of havingstarted a war“. “The Zionist enemy started this aggression and must expect us to fight relentlessly“, said its secretary general, Ziad al-Nakhala, in an interview with Lebanese television Al-Mayadeen, in Tehran, the Iranian capital.
“Israel conducted a precise counterterrorism operation against an immediate threat“Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on television on Friday, accusing the armed group of being “an Iranian proxy who wants to destroy the State of Israel and kill innocent Israelis“. “We will do whatever it takes to defend our people“, he assured. The Arab League denounced Saturday in a press release “the ferocious Israeli aggression”, while the Jordanian diplomacy “stressed the importance of putting an end” to this “aggression”.
In 2019, the death of an Islamic Jihad commander in an Israeli operation sparked several days of deadly exchanges of fire between the armed group and Israel. Hamas, which has fought the Jewish state in four wars since taking power in 2007, had kept its distance from the clashes. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a strict blockade on Gaza, an enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants undermined by poverty and unemployment.
In recent days, Israel had deployed reinforcements near the enclave and on Tuesday ordered the closure of border crossings, forcing thousands of Gazans, holders of work permits in Israel, to stay at home. Diesel deliveries to Gaza’s only power plant were thus blocked and the plant “stopped (to work) due to a shortage“, said Saturday the electricity company.
Around 50 people who normally leave the enclave daily for treatment have also been affected, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
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