Israel-Gaza conflict: Militants exchange fire after deadly attacks – National

Israeli jets pounded militant positions in Gaza on Saturday and rocket attacks continued in southern Israel, killing a senior militant and a 5-year-old girl, among others, in a wave of Israeli airstrikes on the coastal region. After the death of at least 12 people, there was a fear of increasing tension. .

The fighting began after Israel killed a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander in an attack on Friday. Gaza’s Hamas rulers have so far appeared to be on the sidelines, keeping the intensity of the conflict somewhat under control. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes in the past 15 years, at a heavy cost to the region’s two million Palestinians.

Shortly before noon on Saturday, Israeli warplanes stepped up airstrikes. After warning residents in phone calls, warplanes dropped two bombs on the home of an Islamic Jihad member in a residential area of ​​Gaza City, flattening the two-story structure and severely damaging nearby homes. Women and children came out of the area, no casualties were reported.

Story continues below ad.

Read more:

Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire to end the 11-day war.

“Warned us? They warned us about the rockets and we escaped without taking anything. They said 15 people lived in the house that was targeted.

Another airstrike hit an Islamic Jihad site nearby. Gaza militants continued to fire rockets into southern Israel every half hour, although there were no reports of casualties.

The only power plant in Gaza ground to a halt on Saturday afternoon due to lack of fuel as Israel has closed its crossing points into Gaza since Tuesday. The shutdown deepens the congested region’s chronic power crisis amid sweltering summer heat. With the new blockade, Gazans can only get electricity for 4 hours a day, increasing their dependence on private generators.

The latest round of Israel-Gaza violence began this week with the arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank, part of a month-long Israeli military operation in the region. Citing a security threat, Israel then sealed off roads around the Gaza Strip and killed Islamic Jihad’s commander for northern Gaza, Taysir al-Jabari, in a targeted strike on Friday.

An Israeli army spokesman said the strikes were carried out in response to a “simple threat” from two militant groups armed with anti-tank missiles.

Story continues below ad.

Click to play video: 'Both Hamas and Israel claim victory after ceasefire'

Both Hamas and Israel claim victory after the ceasefire agreement.

Both Hamas and Israel claim victory after cease-fire agreement – May 21, 2021

“This government has a zero-tolerance policy for any attempted attacks from Gaza towards Israeli territory,” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said in a televised speech on Friday. “Israel will not sit idly by when there are people trying to harm its citizens.”

“Israel is not interested in a wider conflict in Gaza, but it will not back down from one.” he added.

The violence is an early test for Lapid, who assumed the role of caretaker prime minister ahead of elections in November, when he hopes to remain in office.

Lepid, a centrist former TV host and author, has diplomatic experience and served as foreign minister in the outgoing government, but has few security credentials. The conflict with Gaza could burnish and strengthen his position as he competes against former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a security hawk who has ruled the country during three of its four wars with Hamas. led by

Story continues below ad.

Hamas also faces a dilemma in deciding whether to join a new war barely a year after the previous war caused widespread destruction. There has been almost no reconstruction since then, and the isolated coastal region remains mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50 percent.

Egypt has stepped up efforts to defuse tensions, negotiating with Israel, the Palestinians and the United States to prevent Hamas from joining the fight, the Egyptian intelligence official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 12 people were killed in Gaza, including a 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman, and more than 80 were injured. He did not differentiate between civilians and militants. The Israeli army said an initial estimate was that around 15 fighters were killed.

Hundreds of people marched in the funeral procession for Jihad commander al-Jabari and others killed, many mourners waving Palestinian and Islamic Jihad flags and calling for vengeance. Al-Jabari replaced another militant killed in an airstrike in 2019, sparking a period of intense fighting.

Overnight, Israeli media lit up the skies over southern and central Israel with rockets and interceptors from Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Israeli side. Israel said its late-night strikes in Gaza targeted rocket launchers, rocket-making sites and Islamic Jihad bases. The army said it also arrested 19 Islamic Jihad militants in the West Bank.

Story continues below ad.

Click to play video: 'UN Secretary General Calls for 'Immediate Ceasefire' in Israel-Gaza Conflict'

The UN Secretary General has called for an ‘immediate ceasefire’ in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

UN Secretary-General calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Israel-Gaza conflict – 20 May 2021

The UN special envoy for the region Tor Weinsland said: “The firing of rockets must stop immediately, and I call on all parties to avoid further escalation.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved an order to call up 25,000 reserve troops if needed while the military declared a “state of emergency” on the home front, closing schools and within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of the border. Restrictions were imposed on activities in the communities.

Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for a reprisal attack following the capture of Islamic Jihad leader Bassam al-Saadi in a military raid in the occupied West Bank on Monday. . A teenage member of the group was killed in an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Read more:

Palestinians in Israel have gone on strike as violence continues in Gaza.

Story continues below ad.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew from the strip. Its latest war with Israel was in May 2021. Tensions rose again earlier this year after a wave of attacks inside Israel, near-daily military operations in the West Bank and a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Iran-backed Islamic Jihad is smaller than Hamas but largely shares its ideology. Both groups oppose Israel’s existence and have carried out several deadly attacks over the years, including firing rockets into Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel blames Hamas for all attacks from Gaza.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a strict blockade on the area since Hamas took over. Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent Hamas from increasing its military capabilities. Critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment.

© 2022 The Canadian Press