Israel and Gaza militants exchange fire after deadly attacks; at least 24 dead

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Israeli airstrikes flattened homes in Gaza on Saturday and rockets into southern Israel continued, raising fears of an escalation of a conflict that has left at least 24 people dead in the coastal strip.

The fighting started with Israel’s assassination of a senior commander of the militant Palestinian Islamic Jihad group a wave of strikes Friday which Israel believes were intended to prevent an imminent attack. Among those killed in the strikes are a 5-year-old girl and two women.

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So far, Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, has appeared to be on the sidelines of the conflict, keeping its intensity somewhat limited. Israel and Hamas fought a war barely a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several minor battles over the past 15 years that have cost the 2 million Palestinian residents of the impoverished area a staggering price.

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Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian Tamim Hijazi, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Yousef Masoud / TSTIME


Whether Hamas stays out of the fray likely depends in part on the amount of punishment Israel inflicts on Gaza as the rocket fire continues at a steady pace.

The Israeli military said an errant rocket fired by Palestinian militants late Saturday killed civilians, including children, in the northern Gaza city of Jabaliya. The military said it has investigated the incident and concluded “without a doubt” that it was caused by an error on the part of Islamic Jihad. There was no official Palestinian comment on the incident.

A Palestinian medical worker, who was not authorized to inform the media and spoke to The The Singapore Time on condition of anonymity, said the explosion killed at least six people, including three children.

An airstrike in the southern city of Rafah destroyed a house and damaged surrounding buildings. The health ministry said at least two people were killed and 32 injured, including children. A teenager was found among the rubble and the other person killed was identified by his family as Ziad al-Mudalal, the son of an Islamic Jihad official.

The army said it targeted Khaled Mansour, the commander of Islamic Jihad for southern Gaza. Neither Israel nor the militant group said whether he was hit. Civil defense officials said aid workers were still searching through the rubble and a backhoe was being dispatched from Gaza City.

Another strike on Saturday hit a car, killing a 75-year-old woman and injuring six other people.

In one of the attacks, after the warnings, fighter jets dropped two bombs on the home of an Islamic Jihad member. The blast flattened the two-story building, leaving a large debris-filled crater and severely damaging surrounding homes.

Women and children ran out of the area.

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Rockets fired by Palestinian militants at Israel, in Gaza City, Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Fatima Shbair / TSTIME


“Warned us? They warned us with missiles and we fled without taking anything,” said Huda Shamalakh, who lived next door. She said 15 people lived in the targeted house.

Among the 24 Palestinians killed were six children and two women, as well as the senior commander of Islamic Jihad. The health ministry in Gaza said more than 200 people were injured. It makes no distinction between civilians and combatants. The Israeli military said on Friday that early estimates were that about 15 fighters were killed.

The lone power plant in Gaza came to a halt at noon on Saturday due to lack of fuel as Israel has kept border crossings to Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gaza residents can only get electricity for 4 hours a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the area’s chronic power crisis during the peak summer heat.

Throughout the day, militants from Gaza regularly launched rockets at Israel. The Israeli military said on Saturday night that nearly 450 rockets had been fired, 350 of which reached Israel, but nearly all were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Two people sustained light shrapnel.

A rocket barrage was fired towards Tel Aviv, setting off sirens sending residents to shelters, but the rockets were either intercepted or fell into the sea, the military said.

Sunday could be a critical day in the flare-up as Jews celebrate Tisha B’av, a gloomy fast day that commemorates the destruction of the biblical temples. Thousands are expected at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, and Israeli media reported that Israeli leadership is expected to allow lawmakers to visit an important hilltop holy site in the city that is a flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

On Friday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised speech that “Israel is not interested in a wider conflict in Gaza, but it is also not afraid of it.”

“This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks – of any kind – from Gaza into Israeli territory,” he said. “Israel will not stand idly by when people try to harm its citizens.”

The violence is an early test for Lapid, who took on the role of interim prime minister ahead of the November election, when he hopes to keep his position.

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A Palestinian man responds after identifying the corpse of a family member in a hospital, following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on August 5, 2022.

SAID KHATIB/TSTIME via Getty Images


A centrist former TV host and author, Lapid has experience in diplomacy and has served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but has a meager security credentials. A conflict with Gaza could polish his reputation and give him a boost if he takes on former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who led the country during three of the four wars with Hamas.

Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether or not to engage in another battle, barely a year after the last war caused widespread devastation. Since then there has been almost no reconstruction and the isolated coastal area is mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50%. Israel and Egypt have maintained a tight blockade over the territory since their takeover by Hamas in 2007.

Egypt on Saturday stepped up its efforts to prevent escalation and communicate with Israel, the Palestinians and the United States to prevent Hamas from joining the fighting, an Egyptian intelligence official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The Palestinian health ministry estimated the death toll at 15 and said more than 80 were injured. The ministry made no distinction between civilians and militants. According to the Israeli army, according to early estimates, about 15 fighters were killed.

The latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza was rooted in the arrest earlier this week of a high-ranking Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank as part of a month-long Israeli military operation in the area. A teenage Islamic Jihad member was also killed in a shootout.

Israel then closed roads around Gaza and sent reinforcements to the border, where it warned of retaliation. On Friday, it killed Islamic Jihad commander for northern Gaza, Taiser al-Jabari, in an attack on an apartment building in Gaza City.

An Israeli military spokesman said the attacks were in response to an “imminent threat” from two militant squadrons armed with anti-tank missiles.

Other Israeli attacks struck at night largely on the outskirts of Gaza City or in rural areas, targeting what Israel believes were rocket launchers, rocket building sites and Islamic Jihad camps.

Defense Secretary Benny Gantz approved an order to call in 25,000 reserve soldiers if necessary, while the military announced a “special situation” on the home front, with schools closed and restrictions on activities in communities within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from the coastal strip. The most recent war with Israel was in May 2021. Tensions rose again earlier this year after a spate of attacks in Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and tensions at a holy site in Jerusalem.

The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas, but largely shares its ideology. Both groups oppose Israel’s existence and have carried out dozens of deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets at Israel.

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