Violence has escalated again between Israel and militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. After the targeted killing of the military chief of the Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad and several Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, rockets rained down on Israel.
Egypt now wants to arbitrate. A delegation is ready to travel to Israel and Gaza to mediate, as the German Press Agency learned from security circles in Cairo. The aim is to prevent the conflict from spreading like it did last year. According to reports from Gaza, the United Nations and Qatar are also trying to mediate.
The Israeli military launched the "Dawn" military operation with several airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday after threats of attacks on Israeli civilians. The target of the attacks was the Organization of Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which is the second strongest military force in Gaza after Hamas. Military chief Taisir al-Jabari and other PIJ members were killed. The group, which is closely linked to Israel's arch-enemy Iran, has been classified as a terrorist organization by the EU and the US. According to the military, al-Jabari was responsible for rocket attacks from the coastal strip and planned attacks on civilians.
Death toll rises
According to Palestinian sources, the death toll after the start of Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip has continued to rise. At least 24 people have been killed and 203 injured since Friday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Saturday evening. Six children and two women were among the dead.
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, weapons storage facilities and other military installations were destroyed during the military operation. Reports of civilian deaths are known and being investigated, a military official said on Saturday. During the night there were also several arrests in the West Bank in connection with Islamic Jihad.
Warning sirens in Israeli cities
Warning sirens could be heard in several cities in Israel on Saturday. According to a military official, more than 300 rockets have been fired at Israel since Friday evening. They fell on open ground or were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Some of them ended up in the Gaza Strip.
Several cities, including the coastal city of Tel Aviv, opened public air raid shelters out of fear of further attacks. In the south, numerous people spent the night there. A test match between Juventus Turin and Atlético Madrid in Tel Aviv has been canceled due to security concerns. People in the greater Tel Aviv area were also warned of rockets on Saturday.
In the meantime, the only power plant in Gaza has been shut down due to a lack of fuel. According to the electricity company, the power supply in the coastal area with more than 2 million inhabitants was reduced from twelve to four hours. Israel stopped importing fuel into the area on Monday, citing fears of attacks after the arrest of a West Bank Islamic Jihad leader, Bassem Saadi.
For several days after Saadi's arrest, Israel cordoned off areas on the outskirts of the Gaza Strip and increased the state of alert. Before the Israeli airstrikes on Friday, there were reportedly concrete plans to attack Israeli civilians.
No end in sight to the conflict
According to a report on Saturday, the Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad did not seem ready for a ceasefire for the time being. "Our top priority now is to resist the occupation, counter the aggression and respond to this terror and these attacks on our people," spokesman Dawud Shihab said, according to Al-Majadin TV channel. According to experts, it is now crucial how Hamas reacts to the attacks.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Saturday: "Our operational activities against the perpetrators of terrorism will continue and be intensified." The military previously announced that it was preparing for a week-long operational activity. A meeting of the security cabinet was convened on Saturday evening.
The EU is following the events with great concern and is calling on all sides to exercise the utmost restraint, said an EU spokesman. "While Israel has the right to protect its civilian population, everything must be done to prevent the conflict from escalating."
Eleven-day conflict 2021
Israel's armed forces fought an 11-day conflict with militant Palestinians in the Gaza Strip last year. According to Palestinian information, 255 people died at the time, and 13 people died in Israel, according to Israeli authorities. According to Israeli sources, more than 4,000 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. Egypt eventually brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, among other things. Hamas seized power by force in 2007. Israel then tightened a blockade of the area, supported by Egypt. Both countries justify the measure with security interests.