Israel has carried out a series of strikes on Gaza, killing at least 13 people, including three members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) movement, with Palestinian authorities saying women and four children were among the dead.
Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed, reporting from Gaza, said the Ministry of Health declared on Tuesday that at least 20 others were injured in the pre-dawn strikes in which more than 40 Israeli warplanes carried out attacks for nearly two hours starting at 2am on Tuesday (23:00 GMT Monday).
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Explosions targeting residential apartments were heard in different parts of Gaza, El Sayed said, adding that most of the civilian victims were family members of the PIJ commanders. She said civilians around the apartments were also targeted.
PIJ said three of its commanders were killed in the air attacks and pledged to “avenge” the deaths. The deceased were identified as Jihad al-Ghannam, Khalil al-Bahtini, and Tariq Izz al-Deen.
The three were killed along with their wives and several children, the group said in a statement which did not give details on the number of women and children killed or their ages.
Witnesses said an explosion hit the top floor of an apartment building in Gaza City and a house in the southern city of Rafah, the Reuters news agency reported.
The Israeli army said the air attacks, codenamed “Operation Shield and Arrow”, targeted three PIJ members who it claimed were responsible for recent rockets fired towards Israel.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that “assassinating the leadership in a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but instead greater resistance”.
The Gaza-based group’s spokesman, Hazem Qassem, warned that Israel “bears responsibility for the repercussions of this escalation”.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday its medics treated 145 injuries in Nablus after an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank town. A dozen people were shot with live fire and many others suffered tear gas inhalation, according to the Red Crescent Society.
Last week, Israeli missiles pounded the densely-populated Gaza Strip following rockets fired towards Israeli territory in the aftermath of the death in an Israeli prison of well-known Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan.
Adnan, an activist affiliated with the PIJ, died after nearly three months on hunger strike. Protesting against his arrest without charge, Adnan had refused to eat for 87 days, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.
The Israeli bombardment last week damaged multiple areas in Gaza, including al-Safina, al-Baydar and near al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, Al Jazeera’s Maram Humaid reported.
Hashel Mubarak al-Swerki, a 58-year-old father of 11, died after being severely injured by shrapnel from the Israeli attack northwest of Gaza City. Five other people were also wounded by Israeli missiles east of Beit Hanoun, in the north of the besieged strip.
Calm was restored after Qatari, Egyptian and United Nations officials intervened to broker a ceasefire agreement between Israel and armed Palestinian factions, officials said.
In anticipation of Palestinian rockets being launched in response to the air attacks on Tuesday, Israel’s military issued instructions advising Israeli residents of communities within 40km (25 miles) of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters, The Associated Press news agency reported.
COGAT, a unit in the Israeli defence ministry that coordinates civilian affairs with Palestinian authorities, said two crossings with Gaza have been closed for entry and exit of people and goods until further notice, Reuters reported.