GAZA CITY: Palestinian militants fired rockets toward Jerusalem on Sunday, causing no casualties but signalling new reach and resolve as Israel pressed air strikes in the Gaza Strip for a third day and admitted Jewish visitors to a contested mosque compound.Overnight, Khaled Mansour, a senior commander of the militant Islamic Jihad group, was killed in southern Gaza along with two associates and five other civilians, according to the group. Islamic Jihad said it would “not let their blood dry before they bombard the settlements of the enemy”.About 30 Palestinians, at least a third of them civilians and two of them senior Islamic Jihad commanders, have been killed in a surge of fighting in Gaza over the weekend, while rocket salvoes have sent tens of thousands Israelis to shelters.
Sirens warning of rockets sounded in Mevaseret Zion, Kiryat Anavim, Abu Ghosh and Kiryat Anavim, communities some 5 km (3 miles) west of Jerusalem. An Israeli military spokesperson said rockets fired at Jerusalem had been intercepted over those towns. There were no reports of casualties or damage.Health authorities in Gaza said six children were among those killed since the start of the “Israeli aggression” on Friday, in addition to 253 people injured.But Israel said it had “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket from Islamic Jihad militants had been responsible for the death of multiple children in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on Saturday. It was not immediately clear how many children were killed in the incident in Jabalia. An AFP photographer saw six dead bodies at an area hospital, including three minors.Israel’s military has warned its aerial and artillery campaign against Islamic Jihad could last a week, but Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said Cairo is talking “around the clock” with both sides to ease the violence.Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, as the group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza.
Aqsa Mosque Compound
Another potential flashpoint loomed, however, as Jews commemorating two temples destroyed in antiquity visited the Al Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, where they say those Jewish shrines once stood. Palestinians deem such visits a religious and political affront.Footage circulated online showed some Jews praying in the elevated stone plaza of the compound in violation of Israeli regulations, and police moving in to stop them as Palestinians shouted in protest.Jews call the site the Temple Mount while Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary.
Civilians meanwhile took refuge in air raid shelters on the Israeli side, with AFP journalists hearing sirens warning of incoming fire in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday evening.In Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt, women and children were trapped under rubble following an Israeli strike, the strip’s civil defense unit said.Rescue workers were digging through the site where a top Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was reportedly targeted by an Israeli strike on Saturday.There was no specific confirmation of Mansour’s death, but the head of the Israeli army’s operations directorate, Oded Basiok, said in a statement that the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralized.”Daily life in the strip has come to a standstill, while the electricity distributor said the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.Gaza’s health ministry said the next few hours will be “crucial and difficult,” warning it risked suspending vital services within 72 hours as a result of the lack of electricity.
In Gaza City, resident Dounia Ismail said Palestinians have become accustomed to preparing a “survival bag” of items such as money and medicine.”This latest escalation brings back images of fear, anxiety, and the feeling that we are all alone,” she told AFP.On the Israeli side of the frontier, the Magen David Adom emergency service said two people were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds and 13 others were lightly hurt while running for safety.In Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli community beside the Gaza border, resident Nadav Peretz said he has been “in the bomb shelter or around it” since Friday.”We recognize that on the other side too there is an uninvolved civilian population, and on both sides children deserve to enjoy their summer vacation,” the 40-year-old said.
The UN humanitarian chief for the occupied Palestinian territories, Lynn Hastings, urged the warring sides to allow “fuel, food, and medical supplies” to be delivered to Gaza amid the worsening crisis.On Friday, the health ministry reported “a five-year-old girl” was among those killed by Israeli fire.The girl, Alaa Kaddum, had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her body was carried by her father at her funeral.
The Islamic Jihad and Hamas
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are blacklisted as terrorist organizations by much of the West.Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.A flare-up with Islamic Jihad came in 2019, following Israel’s killing of Baha Abu Al-Ata, Jabari’s predecessor. Hamas did not join the fray in that conflict.Hamas’s moves now could prove crucial, with the group facing pressure from some to restore calm in order to improve economic conditions in Gaza.Overnight about 20 people were arrested in the West Bank, as security forces continued to pressure Islamic Jihad leadership outside the Gaza Strip.