Friday, May 27, 2022

Israel strikes Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza and Syria after rocket attacks

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The Israeli military has carried out air strikes against the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Gaza and Syria in response to rocket fire.

On Sunday, more than 20 rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel, causing some damage.

Overnight, the Israeli military struck what it called PIJ “terror targets”, including weapons development and training facilities near Damascus.

PIJ said two fighters were killed in Syria and vowed to avenge their deaths.

Gaza’s health ministry reported that four Palestinians were wounded in the territory.

On Monday, another six rockets were fired at southern Israel, five of which were intercepted, according to the Israeli military. There were no reports of any injuries.

The hostilities escalated on Sunday morning, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had killed a PIJ militant near Israel’s border fence with the Gaza Strip.

The IDF said troops identified two men attempting to plant an explosive device on the fence and opened fire at them.

A video shared widely on social media showed an Israeli bulldozer scooping up the body of the man, provoking anger among Palestinians.

The IDF said it removed the body in a way that prevented further danger to its troops. But some Palestinians called for retaliation and hours later, several barrages of rockets were fired from Gaza towards southern Israel.

The IDF said 16 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and that 10 others fell in open terrain.

Israeli media reported that one home and one car were damaged, and that two civilians were treated for mild injuries in Ashkelon – one woman who tripped and hit her head while running to a shelter, and another woman who suffered from shock.

PIJ claimed responsibility for the rocket fire, calling it a response to the killing of its fighter at the border fence.

On Sunday night, Israeli fighter jets carried out retaliatory strikes on PIJ targets.

The IDF said the targets in Gaza included the group’s headquarters in the southern city of Khan Younis and storage sites in neighbouring Rafah.

In Syria, a base used by PIJ to develop new weapons and produce tens of kilograms of rocket fuel each month was struck, according to the IDF.

The IDF also said it hit a PIJ squad preparing to fire rockets from northern Gaza.

Syrian state media cited a military source as saying Syrian air defences intercepted the majority of the Israeli missiles fired towards the surroundings of Damascus shortly before midnight on Sunday. The source did not mention any casualties.

But PIJ later confirmed in a statement that the air strikes in Syria killed two of its members, naming them as Salim Salim and Ziad Mansour.

The group said their “deaths will be avenged” and that the attack was “proof of the Israeli failure to deal with Islamic Jihad fighters in the battlefield”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, said four members of Iran-backed militias were also killed in the Israeli strikes in Syria.

On Monday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a “large-scale military operation” in Gaza might be unavoidable.

“War is a last resort, but there may be no escape from it. We’ve prepared a radically different campaign,” he told Radio Jerusalem.

PIJ, which is backed by Iran, is one of the strongest militant groups in Gaza.

In November, an Israeli air strike killed a senior PIJ commander in Gaza who the IDF said had undermined efforts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza.

SourceBBC

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