By Neelam Rahim
Israeli aircraft struck Gaza on Saturday as fighting saw a second day, ending over a year of relative calm along the border.
Israel on Friday said it had launched a special operation against a Palestinian group, killing one among its senior commanders in a surprise daytime air strike on a high-rise building in Gaza City.
The Israeli strikes killed at least nine more Palestinians, including a five-year-old girl, and wounded 79 people, in line with the Palestinian Health Ministry.
The Israeli army announced the arrest of 19 people it said were members of the group within the occupied West Bank, alongside the arrest of one other.
Israel and Islamic Jihad have confirmed the killing of Taysir Al-Jabari, a vital leader of the militants, during a Friday strike on a building within the west of Gaza city.
Islamic Jihad said that the initial Israeli bombardment amounted to a “declaration of war” before it unleashed a barrage of rockets toward Israel. The rocket fire and Israeli strikes were continuing early Saturday, risking a repeat of an 11-day conflict in May 2021 that devastated Gaza and made countless Israelis rush to bomb shelters.
Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar had begun mediating an end to the violence, in line with a Palestinian official with knowledge of the efforts, “but no breakthrough yet”, the official said.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority official condemned Israel’s attacks.
“We appeal to the international community to intervene and supply protection for our people,” Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
Further escalation would primarily rely on Hamas and whether it’d choose to join the fighting.
Tensions rose after Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian commander within the West Bank, drawing threats of retaliation from the group.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Friday’s strikes thwarted an instantaneous and concrete attack by Islamic Jihad Movement.
The frontier had been largely quiet since May 2021, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and Palestine left a minimum of 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel killed.