At least four people killed – including an Islamic Jihad commander and a young girl – and 23 injured in a series of missile attacks across Gaza.
gaza city – Israel attacked Gaza with warplanes on Friday, killing at least four people, including an Islamic Jihad group commander and a young girl.
Taysir al-Jabari, a commander of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, died in an airstrike on an apartment in Palestine Tower in central Gaza City, the group said.
The health ministry in Gaza said at least four people were killed, including al-Jabari and a five-year-old girl. At least 23 people were injured and treated in hospitals following the Israeli raids.
Smoke billowed from the seventh floor of the building in Gaza City.
“We just had lunch on Friday and my kids were playing. Suddenly a huge explosion hit the tower we live in. We fled. The sound was massive. We were very shocked because the place is full of civilians. I saw many victims who were evacuated,” a resident told Al Jazeera with blood covering his clothes.
The Israeli attack follows days of tension with Palestinians following the arrest of a senior Palestinian leader in the occupied West Bank.
It was not immediately clear what Israel was aiming for or how much worse the situation would escalate. Multiple explosions could be heard and seen throughout Gaza. Israeli reconnaissance drones could be heard hovering over the besieged territory.
“The IDF [Israel Defense Force] is currently striking in the Gaza Strip. A special situation has been declared on the Israeli home front,” the IDF said in a statement. He said further details would follow.
Israel closed roads around Gaza earlier this week and sent reinforcements to the border as it prepared for a response after a senior Islamic Jihad group official in the occupied West Bank was arrested on Monday.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said in a statement that he would respond to Friday’s “escalation”.
“The Israeli enemy is the one who started the escalation against the resistance in Gaza, and a new crime has been committed, and he bears full responsibility,” Barhoum said.
“The resistance will defend our people in the Gaza Strip with all they have and will continue to respond.”
Ahmed Mudalal, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, said the group had demanded from Israel through Egyptian mediators, including the release of the detained leader and another prisoner, an end to raids in the West Bank and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza. He said they had not yet received a response.
Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, have fought four wars and several minor skirmishes over the past 15 years.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz visited communities near Gaza on Friday, saying authorities were preparing “actions that will eliminate the threat from that area,” without giving further details.
“We will operate with internal resilience and external strength to restore routine life in southern Israel,” he said. “We do not seek conflict, but we will not hesitate to defend our citizens, if necessary.”
Israel and Egypt have maintained a strict blockade on Gaza for 14 years, and critics say the policy amounts to collective punishment of the region’s two million Palestinian residents.