Israeli warplanes launched airstrikes targeting Islamic Jihad leaders and installations in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, the Israeli military said. The Palestinian militant group said three of its senior commanders were killed, along with their families, as they slept in the early hours of the morning when their homes were hit.
Palestinian officials said a total of 13 people were killed in the morning attack, including at least four children and wives and some neighbors of Islamic Jihad militants.
Israel’s military said it had targeted the residences of three senior commanders of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, as well as weapons used in smuggling tunnels and a cement production facility. Witnesses reported blasts on the top floor of an apartment building in Gaza City and a house in the southern city of Rafah. Airstrikes continued till Tuesday morning.
The Israeli military said the airstrikes, codenamed “Operation Shield and Arrow,” targeted Islamic Jihad commander Khalil Bahtini in the northern Gaza Strip; Tarek Ezeldin, group mediator between Gaza and West Bank members; and Jehad Ghannam, Secretary of the Military Council of Islamic Jihad. It said these three were responsible for the recent rocket attacks on Israel.
The airstrike comes as tensions flare between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the militant group Hamas. The tensions are linked to escalating violence in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has conducted almost daily raids over the past few months to detain Palestinians suspected of planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis.
CBS News’ Marwan Alghoul said more than half of Gaza City’s residents woke up to the sound of the first attack around 2 a.m. as two homes in the city were hit. Alghoul said Islamic Jihad confirmed that three of its leaders were killed, along with their wives and some of their children, and the group vowed to swiftly respond to the killings.
Anticipating Palestinian rocket fire in response to the attack, the Israeli military issued orders advising residents of communities within 25 miles of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters.
Last week, Gaza militants fired several salvo rockets into southern Israel and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes. After the death of a starving senior member of Islamic Jihad In Israeli custody. The firefight ended with a fragile ceasefire brokered by Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar.
The airstrikes are similar to those in 2022 in which Israel bombed the residences of Islamic Jihad group commanders, triggering a three-day blitz in which the group lost two of its top commanders and dozens of other militants.
Israel says the operation in the West Bank is aimed at destroying militant networks and thwarting future attacks. Palestinians see the attack as a further entry into Israel’s 56-year, open occupation of land they seek for a future independent state.
According to the Associated Press, 105 Palestinians, nearly half of them militants or alleged attackers, have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2023.