"Now is the time for resistance, not for truce." Islamic Jihad responds to Israel's attacks, firing hundreds of rockets. Explosions are reported from Jerusalem. An escalation on today's Jewish holiday Tisha B'Av had been feared.
For the first time since the start of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, there has also been a rocket alert in Jerusalem. According to military reports, the warning sirens wailed around the city in the morning. Residents reported explosions. According to the military, more than 400 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel since Friday. According to the Israel Rescue Service, 21 people were treated in hospital. It had been feared that the situation on today's Jewish day of fasting and mourning, Tisha B'Av, could deteriorate further. Religious Jews mourn the destruction of the two ancient temples in Jerusalem on the day.
The Islamist Hamas organization, which rules in the Gaza Strip, called on the previous evening to "defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and to oppose the Israeli attacks on the holy site". The Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. So far, Hamas has held back in the recent conflict with Israel. The Israeli airstrikes were primarily aimed at the second largest Palestinian organization in the Gaza Strip, Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
During the night, the Israeli army again attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip. Secretary of Defense Benny Gantz on Saturday night ordered the armed forces to continue operational efforts, his office said. Militant Palestinians responded with massive rocket fire. There is still no response to Egypt's attempts to mediate.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 24 people have died since the Israeli airstrikes began on Friday. At least 215 were injured. Among the dead are six children and two women, along with other PIJ members. Israel has denied Palestinian reports blaming the Israeli military for the deaths of five children and one adult in the Jabalia refugee camp. "Based on military data, it appears that the event resulted from a misguided Islamic Jihad missile," the military said.
According to information from Palestinian security circles, three residential buildings were hit in the attacks on Saturday. A five-story apartment building west of Gaza City was destroyed. Local residents reported that Israeli drones previously fired a warning missile at the building before fighter jets attacked the building. The Israeli military said that only weapons production facilities, rocket launchers and weapons storage facilities were destroyed during the military operation. Reports of civilian deaths are known and being investigated, a military official said on Saturday.
On Sunday night, the Israeli army announced that it had launched a successful strike against Islamic Jihad. "The senior leadership of Islamic Jihad's military wing in Gaza has been neutralized," said the head of operations, Maj. Gen. Oded Basiok, without explaining exactly what neutralize means. A confirmation from the militant Palestinian organization is not yet available. According to Palestinian sources, it is unclear whether the southern commander of Islamic Jihad, Khalid Mansur, was killed in the attack in the city of Rafah, it said. Rescue workers searched for survivors in the rubble during the night.
Islamic Jihad itself has not yet commented on how many of its members have died in previous attacks. A ceasefire does not appear to be in sight. "Now is the time for resistance, not for a truce," a representative told Reuters. In 2019, Israel had already killed al-Jabari's predecessor, Baha Abu al-Ata. This was followed by massive rocket attacks. After a few days, a ceasefire was agreed with the help of Egyptian and United Nations negotiators.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that his government was trying to avoid fighting and other acts of violence between the two sides, state news site Al-Ahram reported. According to reports from Gaza, the United Nations and Qatar are also trying to mediate.
The escalation was preceded by the arrest of a West Bank Islamic Jihad leader, Bassem Saadi, on Monday. For several days, Israel cordoned off areas on the edge of the coastal strip and increased the state of alert. According to reports, there were concrete plans to attack Israeli civilians.
Israel's armed forces engaged in an 11-day conflict with militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip last year. According to Palestinian information, 255 people died there, and according to Israeli authorities, 13 people died in Israel. More than 4000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
The current Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip are to occupy the UN Security Council in New York next Monday. Diplomatic circles said on Saturday that a meeting of the United Nations' most powerful body had been requested by the United Arab Emirates, Ireland, France, Norway and China. A time has not yet been set. The meeting will take place behind closed doors.