Israel has unleashed a wave of air attacks on Gaza since Friday, killing at least 31 people, including six children.
It has warned that its “preemptive” operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad could last a week. Its raids have destroyed apartment buildings and killed two senior officials from the armed group.
Rocket sirens sounded west of Jerusalem on Sunday as rockets were launched into Israel. The Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted 97 percent of Palestinian rockets, the military said, and no casualties had been reported.
What has happened?
- Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said it was necessary to launch the “preemptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, as the group was planning an attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza.
- The latest round of tensions began after Israeli forces arrested Bassam al-Saadi, an Islamic Jihad commander in the occupied West Bank, on Monday during a raid in the city of Jenin that resulted in the killing of a teenager.
- Israeli forces on Friday bombed an apartment building in the centre of Gaza City, killing Tayssir al-Jabari, Islamic Jihad’s northern commander, and at least nine others, including a five-year-old girl and a 23-year-old woman.
- Israel stopped the planned transport of fuel into Gaza shortly before it launched its attacks, crippling the territory’s lone power plant and reducing the electricity supply to about four hours per day.
- The Israeli military also said it had arrested 19 members of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank on Saturday.
- Rocket sirens and explosions were heard west of Jerusalem on Sunday as dozens of rockets were launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
- In Tel Aviv, witnesses said they could hear booms but there were no reports of sirens.
- The current governing coalition is meaning to look hawkish in the lead-up to another election cycle in November, in which the Likud party headed by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised for a return.
- The death toll from the Israeli assault on Gaza rose to 31 on Sunday, including six children. More than 260 people have been injured.
- A senior commander of Islamic Jihad was killed in an Israeli raid on Saturday, the Palestinian armed group confirmed.
- Khaled Mansour, its commander in the south of the Gaza Strip, was the second high-ranking member of the armed group to be assassinated as Israeli jets bombed the besieged enclave.
- The violence is the worst in Gaza since a war in May 2021 killed more than 260 Palestinians in 11 days, and wounded at least 2,000 others.
What is Islamic Jihad?
- After bombing Gaza, Lapid described Islamic Jihad as “an Iranian proxy that wants to destroy the state of Israel”.
- The group was founded in 1981 by Palestinian students in Egypt with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and other areas of what is now Israel. Islamic Jihad is the smaller of the two main Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, and is vastly outnumbered by the governing Hamas group.
- Ibrahim Fraihat, from the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that the group is known to oppose the peace process and the negotiation approach with Israel. “Because of the links to Iran, we are seeing one of the causes of Israel’s attack,” he said.
Risk of escalation
- A further escalation of the violence could depend on whether Hamas would opt to join the fighting alongside Islamic Jihad.
- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, “The Israeli enemy, which started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”
- Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said he was talking “around the clock” with both sides to ease the situation.
- An Egyptian intelligence delegation headed by Major General Ahmed Abdelkhaliq arrived in Israel on Saturday. Sources told Reuters news agency it would travel to Gaza for mediation talks in a bid to secure a day’s ceasefire for negotiations to take place.
- The United States said on Saturday that it fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself and urged all sides to avoid further escalation.
- Iran, which backs Islamic Jihad, said Israel will “pay a heavy price” for the latest attacks.