Gaza and Jerusalem
Three Islamic Jihad commanders were among at least a dozen people killed as Israeli jets and helicopters struck multiple targets in Gaza early Tuesday.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza said at least 12 people died and 20 were injured in the airstrikes as of 5 a.m. local time as it warned the number of casualties could rise.
“Ambulance crews are still continuing to evacuate victims from the areas targeted by the occupation,” the Ministry of Health said, referring to Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed it launched pre-dawn airstrikes on Gaza, saying it was a “response to incessant aggression on the part of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization.”
Calling the strikes “Operation Shield and Arrow,” the IDF said its fighter jets and helicopters hit 10 Islamic Jihad targets, including what it said were “rocket production workshops in Khan Yunis,” weapon manufacturing sites, military compounds, a concrete manufacturing site and a military post in southern Gaza.
Video from the coastal enclave showed explosions lighting up the night sky and the rubble from buildings hit by the strikes.
Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said three of its commanders were killed in the operation along with their wives and children.
The commanders killed were Jihad Shaker Al-Ghannam, secretary of the Military Council in the al Quds Brigades; Khalil Salah al Bahtini, commander of the Northern Region in the al Quds Brigades; and Tariq Muhammad Ezzedine, one of the leaders of the military wing of the al Quds Brigades in the West Bank, the group said.
The Islamic Jihad statement did not say how many other people had been killed.
Israel’s National Security Council said in a statement that the group had fired 102 rockets toward southern Israel a week earlier, on May 2.
The council said Tuesday’s strikes were targeted and Israel was trying to “avoid harming those not involved as much as possible.”
“The IDF and the security forces are working and will continue to work in a targeted manner to thwart terrorist targets, based on accurate intelligence, and in an effort to avoid harming those not involved as much as possible,” it said.
Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said the strikes were targeted: “Our focus is Islamic Jihad only.”
Gaza is one of the most densely packed places in the world, an isolated coastal enclave of almost two million people crammed into 140 square miles.
Governed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the territory is largely cut off from the rest of the world by an Israeli blockade of Gaza’s land, air and sea dating back to 2007. Egypt controls Gaza’s southern border crossing, Rafah.
Israel has placed heavy restrictions on the freedom of civilian movement and controls the importation of basic goods into the narrow coastal strip.