Two Palestinians have been injured when they were hit by an air strike on Gaza, amid reports that Tel Aviv has plans to escalate attacks on the strip.
Israeli rockets targeted a motorcycle in Gaza’s northern neighbourhood of Saftawi on Sunday, leaving its rider, a 22-year-old man, in critical condition.
Israel confirmed the attack in a statement issued by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). The motorcycle passenger was identified by the IDF as Ahmad Sa’ad, who it accuses of being a senior operative in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PJI) and who it says is to blame for cross-border rocket attacks last week.
“The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) successfully targeted a terrorist operative involved in recent attacks against Israel and was planning further attacks in the coming days,” it said in a statement.
The Israeli military blames Sa’ad for firing five rockets towards southern Israel on January 16. The rockets were intercepted by the army’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. The rockets caused no injuries or damage.
“The IDF operated in order to eliminate an imminent threat to the lives of Israeli civilians,” the IDF statement said.
Another victim was a 12-year-old boy who happened to be nearby, Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Threats of attacks
There was no confirmation from Gaza that the wounded man was Sa’ad or that he belonged to PJI, with sources in the movement also refusing to comment on the strike.
The morning strike followed two more overnight, and amid fears that the strip will witness an escalation in attacks in near future.
An Egyptian mediator delievered a threat message from Israel to Gaza’s leadership, sources have told Al Jazeera.
On January 8, an PJI fighter was killed near Gaza City in what medics and family said was an Israeli drone strike, but the army denied any involvement.
Since the start of the year, tensions have risen in and around Gaza after a year of relative calm, with five people killed since December 20. Four of the victims were Palestinian and one was Israeli.
Since January 1, eight rockets fired from Gaza have landed in Israel with another five intercepted by Iron Dome last Thursday.