Middle East: Second jihad chief killed as rockets hit Israel

Targeted killings of jihadi military chiefs and a hail of rockets aimed at Israel: The conflict between the Israeli army and Islamists in the Gaza Strip escalated over the weekend.

Middle East: Second jihad chief killed as rockets hit Israel

Targeted killings of jihadi military chiefs and a hail of rockets aimed at Israel: The conflict between the Israeli army and Islamists in the Gaza Strip escalated over the weekend. The Israeli army also killed the southern commander of the Palestinian organization Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in airstrikes as part of the "Dawn" military operation, the military said on Sunday.

For the first time in this round of violence, Palestinian militants also fired rockets at Jerusalem. According to the army, more than 500 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip since the start of the operation on Friday. By Sunday evening, the warning sirens were howling in numerous cities, including Tel Aviv. Residents of the Mediterranean city rushed to shelters. Dull explosions could be heard.

Almost all of the missiles that threatened Israeli residential areas were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Numerous deaths in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli army attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday night. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 41 Palestinians had died since the attacks began on Friday by Sunday evening. At least 311 were injured. Among the dead are 15 children and four women, along with other PIJ members.

However, Israel blames Islamic Jihad for the deaths of five children and one adult in the Jabalia refugee camp. According to the military, they were killed by a misguided jihadi missile. The army published video recordings on Sunday. About 120 of the rockets fired since Friday have hit the Gaza Strip itself.

At the beginning of the military operation, Israel had killed the jihadi military chief Taisir al-Jabari and other PIJ members. According to Israeli information, the jihad was planning an attack with anti-tank missiles in the border area with the Gaza Strip. For several days, Israel cordoned off areas on the edge of the coastal strip and increased the state of alert. The escalation followed Monday's arrest of a PIJ leader in the West Bank, Bassem Saadi. 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.

Beware of further escalation

Israeli commentators on Sunday spoke of a serious blow to jihad, but urged a swift ceasefire. Otherwise there is a risk that "(the conflict) will spill over into the West Bank or an uprising by Israeli Arabs" or that Hamas, which rules in the Gaza Strip, will enter the exchange of blows. Hamas has so far held back in the conflict. According to Israeli information, it has significantly more and longer-range missiles than Jihad, the second strongest military force in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Jair Lapid said on Sunday that the operation would "continue as long as necessary". Efforts are made to ensure that bystanders are not harmed.

Israel's former national security adviser, Jaakov Amidror, currently sees no real interest on the part of Hamas in getting involved in the conflict. Unlike jihad, the ruling power in the Gaza Strip also sees itself responsible for the well-being of the civilian population, he told the German Press Agency. The organization understands that it "would have to pay a high price," also as a lesson learned from last year's Gaza conflict. Hamas has an interest in the fact that around 14,000 Gaza residents can continue to work in Israel every day. In addition, given the lack of fuel, the power supply in the narrow coastal strip is at risk. Should the number of civilian casualties increase, the pressure on Hamas not to stand idly by will increase, said Amidror.

The Federal Foreign Office in Berlin condemned the shelling of Israeli towns with rockets on Sunday "in the strongest possible terms". It is now important to prevent further escalation, said a spokeswoman.

Jerusalem as a religious powder keg

For the first time since the beginning of the operation, rockets were also fired at Jerusalem on Sunday - the Jewish day of fasting and mourning. Religious Jews mourn the destruction of the two ancient temples in Jerusalem on the day.

Hamas had called for the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount to be "defended and opposed to 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.

The neighboring country wants to mediate

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Saturday his government was trying to avoid fighting and other acts of violence between the two sides. According to reports from Gaza, the United Nations and Qatar are also trying to mediate. Despite reports of a possible ceasefire, rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip continued into Sunday evening.

In 2019, Israel 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. Last year, Israeli forces engaged in an 11-day conflict with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. At the time, Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which had violently seized power in the coastal strip in 2007.

Video of the Israeli army on Twitter Israeli Prime Minister Lapid on Twitter

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