Israel yesterday bombed targets linked to Islamic Jihad in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, killing one of its top commanders and prompting the organization's response by threatening to attack Tel Aviv in retaliation. The Israeli bombardments caused nine deaths, including a five-year-old girl, and some 44 wounded, according to Palestinian health sources. Israeli military sources raised the deaths to 15, claiming to have killed ten members of the Islamist organization. Hours later, at dusk, another attack was aimed at the south of the strip, specifically the cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, on the border with Egypt.
The attacks, directed against several targets, ended the life of Taisir al Jabari at his home in Gaza City. Al Jabari was a military commander of Islamic Jihad in the north of the strip, and was considered number two in the organization and in charge of coordinating actions with Hamas, which governs the strip. The Israeli offensive comes days after an escalation in tension that followed the arrest this week of Basam al-Sadi, another veteran leader of the organization, in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Israel closed from that moment on all crossings with Gaza. In a statement broadcast by the Lebanese television channel Al Mayadin, which is close to Iran, the leader of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al Nayala, promised retaliation. "There are no red lines in this battle and Tel Aviv will fall under the rockets of the resistance, as well as all Israeli cities," Al Nayala said.
On the Israeli side, all flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv were diverted to the north of the country and new batteries of the Iron Dome anti-missile system were deployed in the center of Israeli territory, while the army issued warnings and orders to all the inhabitants within a radius of 80 kilometers around Gaza and announced the mobilization of the Golani Brigade, an elite body of the army, habitual in military interventions in the strip. At the time, he appealed to the reservists.
All this, added to the fact that the military operation even has a name, Dawning, suggests that it will not be a matter of a couple of days. "We took the initiative and we are not done yet," a military spokesman told reporters, stressing that "it will take time." Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his government "will not allow terrorist organizations to set the agenda in the Gaza Strip and threaten Israeli citizens."
Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, announced for its part that it maintains its support for Islamic Jihad and affirmed that it will also respond to Israeli attacks. "The resistance, with all its weapons and its military factions, is united in this campaign and will have the last word," a statement read.
In recent days, after the arrest of his man in the West Bank, Islamic Jihad militiamen armed with anti-tank rockets approached the border area several times, according to the aforementioned Israeli military spokesman, in what is interpreted as a show of force and a clear threat.
Since the arrest of Basam al Sadi, international mediators have tried to prevent an escalation of violence after the Palestinian group's threat about a possible retaliatory attack, according to the Efe agency, which also points out that yesterday's Israeli attack marks a change in trend with respect to previous offensives, whose triggers usually include hostilities by Palestinian groups in the strip against Israeli territory. An Egyptian official told the Israeli daily Haaretz that mediation efforts were continuing.
On the part of the United States, there was the usual reaction calling the parties to restraint and pointing out “Israel's right to defend itself”.