Israel strikes Gaza as it launches ‘week of operations’

Comes after Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired more than 160 rockets towards Israeli towns on Friday night killing at least 12

Israel has said it will launch a "week of operations" against Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] in the Gaza Strip after more than 160 rockets were fired from the enclave towards Israeli towns on Friday night.

The rockets, fired by PIJ and other militant groups, were in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Friday that killed a military commander, Tayseer Jabari, and a five-year-old girl.

Israeli military officials said they had struck pre-emptively after several days of threats from militant groups in Gaza, who were angered by the arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad figure in the West Bank earlier this week.

Palestinians inspect a house destroyed during the strike Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM
Mourners react during the funeral of Palestinian man who died in the strike Credit: Yousef Masoud

Sirens blared in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday after rockets were fired from Gaza, AFP journalists and the Israeli military said.

The sirens warning of incoming fire were heard by AFP in south Tel Aviv moments after an AFP correspondent saw rockets being launched from Gaza.

It came as Israel said it had arrested 19 Islamic Jihad members in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli troops also arrested the group's West Bank commander, Bassem al-Saadi, on Tuesday. 

The arrest of al-Saadi prompted furious protests from Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza and threats towards Israel.

At noon on Saturday, Palestinian officials announced that Gaza's only power plant had closed down, jeopardising electricity supplies for the Gaza Strip's 2.3m residents.

Palestinian women look out a broken window to inspect damage in the aftermath of an Israeli air strike Credit: MAHMUD HAMS

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, has expressed solidairity with Islamic Jihad fighters but has not yet joined the fighting with Israel. According to Israeli media reports, Israeli leaders have told Hamas via intermediaries that they are only interested in striking Islamic Jihad targets.

Hamas is said to be wary of joining the fighting as its priority is governing the Gaza Strip. However, if the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to rise this could change quickly, leading to a potental Israel-Gaza war.

Smoke rises following Israeli airstrikes on a building in Gaza City Credit: Hatem Moussa

Egyptian mediators have reportedly been dispatched to Gaza and Tel Aviv in an attempt to broker a ceasefire, but neither the Israeli army nor Islamic Jihad seemed ready to begin talks on one as of Saturday afternoon.

Friday night's airstrikes and ensuing rocket launches are the largest flare-up since the May 2021 conflict last year, in which 260 Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed after two weeks of fighting.

Palestinian health officials in Gaza said on Saturday said that the death toll had risen to 15 and a further 125 people were wounded.

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Saturday that the group was with Palestinians "until the end" in their fight against Israel.

"Today, all the anti-Zionist jihadi capabilities are on the scene in a united formation working to liberate Jerusalem and uphold the rights of the Palestinian people," Major General Hossein Salami said in a statement on the Guards' Sepah News website.