Israel has launched a military operation targeting Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, in the most violent flare-up with the Palestinians in over a year.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported 31 deaths, including six children and four women, and more than 250 wounded. The UN has also reported that at least 31 families have been left homeless. One Israeli civilian and two soldiers have also been lightly wounded by shrapnel.
Israel says that the express purpose of the campaign has been to cripple Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second-largest militant group. Unlike in the last round of fighting, ruling party Hamas has so far chosen to sit out the conflict. For its part, Israel has limited its efforts to focus on Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip.
This is the sixth major escalation since 2007, when Hamas consolidated its control of the Gaza Strip and Israel tightened its blockade on the 2 million Palestinians in the coastal enclave.
An undercover Israeli unit entered Jenin refugee camp on Monday night to arrest Bassam al-Saadi, one of the Islamic Jihad’s leading figures in the West Bank, as well as his aide.
During the raid, Israel forces also killed 17-year-old Durar Riyad al-Kafarini in an exchange of fire.
With Islamic Jihad vowing to take vengeance for the arrest, Israel introduces a series of unusual preemptive restrictions on Israelis living by the Gaza border, including roadblocks.
Citing security concerns, Israel shut down both Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings, preventing essential commodities, including food and fuel, from entering the Gaza Strip.
Medical patients and the 14,000 Palestinians from Gaza with work permits in Israel were also barred from entering and exiting the enclave.
After closures entered their fourth day, and under growing pressure from local residents, Israel launches airstrikes to assassinate Tayseer al-Jabari, the head of Islamic Jihad’s military wing in the northern Gaza Strip, and claims to kill 10 more militants from the organization.
Over the course of the evening, the Israel Defense Forces proceed to attack Gaza City, Beit Hanoun and Khan Younis, as part of a new military operation code-named Breaking Dawn.
A 5-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman are among the civilian casualties from the bombing campaign.
Following al-Jabari’s funeral, Islamic Jihad launches a score of rockets toward Israel, with border towns bearing the brunt of the barrage.
Most rockets are intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and no injuries are reported.
Despite Islamic Jihad’s capabilities limited to mostly short-range missiles, sirens sounded in the Tel Aviv suburbs of Bat Yam and Rishon Letzion.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh blames Israel for the escalation and threatens that “all options are open,” but no rocket fire is attributed to the ruling party in the Strip.
The Israeli army reports that it destroyed rocket and mortar manufacturing facilities and a rocket-launching site belonging to Islamic Jihad across the Gaza Strip.
At around 6:30 A.M., Israeli forces also carry out arrest raids in the framework of the same operation across the West Bank, detaining 20 Palestinians, all but one of whom is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad.
The Gaza’s sole power plant, a key lifeline for the besieged enclave, is forced to shutter for 12 hours due to a lack of fuel, compounding the long-term shortages and compromising basic services.
Gaza’s Health Ministry warns, “The countdown has begun to halting health services within 72 hours.”
Saturday, Aug. 6, 12:30 P.M.
Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded by mortar shells in the country’s south, after a civilian was injured by shrapnel earlier in the day.
A barrage of rockets was fired by Islamic Jihad toward central Israel on Saturday evening, with sirens sounding in Tel Aviv and locals reporting loud explosions heard overhead.
Sirens have been blaring throughout the day along the Gaza border, the Judean Foothills, and in the coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod.
Nobody was seriously injured by the attacks, though material damage to property and vehicles was reported in Ashkelon.
At least five Palestinians are killed, including four children, and several more injured by a strike near a mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza.
The dead were aged five, nine, 10, 11 and 19, with Hamas and the Palestinian media laying the blame with Israel, though Islamic Jihad itself has not responded to the incident.
The Israeli military says it did not carry out any strikes on Jabalya Refugee Camp at the time, adding that the deaths were caused by an errant Islamic Jihad rocket.
In an unusual move, Minister for Culture and Sports Chili Tropper is sent out of the nighttime cabinet meeting to pour cold water on the allegations.
Two videos are distributed appearing to show a rocket veering off into a built-up area, but the footage has not been independently verified.
The Israel Defense Forces claim to assassinate Khalid Mansour, the head of the Islamic Jihad’s military wing in the southern Strip. Islamic Jihad has not yet confirmed the reports.
At least 40 others are injured in the attack, according to Palestinians.
Shortly after, Maj. Gen. Oded Basyuk, head of Operations Directorate in the Israel Defense Forces, told the press that “all top Islamic Jihad security officials in the [Gaza] Strip have been eliminated” on Saturday.
Hundreds of Jews, including far-right lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, arrive at the Temple Mount Sunday morning, with the gates of the holy site opening for the holiday of Tisha B’Av events, accompanied by roadblocks and beefed-up security presence.
The holy site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, has become a flashpoint for tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, especially amid a spike of Jewish attempts to worship there in violation of the long-standing religious status quo.
Palestinian media says an Israeli strike has hit a house in the Jabalya area of northern Gaza, killing two. Reports say one of the dead had been struck while attempting to attend to wounded people.
An Israeli diplomatic source confirms that ceasefire talks are ongoing under Egyptian meditation. Cairo has been seeking to quell tensions as early as the beginning of the week.
An Egyptian diplomatic source, however, warned that “as time passes and the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens, the chance that Hamas will join the fight increases.” According to their estimation, “if there is no ceasefire within 48 hours, Hamas will join the fighting.”
Reuters, Al Jazeera and several Palestinian media outlets reported an agreement was reached for a cease-fire that would start at 8 P.M., citing Palestinian and Egyptian sources. An Islamic Jihad spokesman confirmed talks are happening, but would not immediately say whether they were successful.
An Israeli official confirmed talks for a cease-fire that would go into effect on Sunday evening, but said its details are still being finalized.
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