Israel threatens to extend by one week the biggest offensive against Gaza in more than a year | International

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Israel threatens to prolong for a week the largest offensive unleashed against the Gaza Strip since May 2021. Three dozen Islamic Jihad targets were destroyed on Friday in the first day of bombardments, which have claimed the lives of at least 12 people, including a military chief of the al-Quds Brigades (the Palestinian group’s militia), causing 84 injuries. Islamic Jihad, which maintains close contacts with Iran, has responded by firing 160 rockets into southern and central Israel. Two Israeli soldiers have been injured by mortar shells.

Egypt has been making efforts in the last hours in a mediation mission, with the support of Qatar and the United Nations, between the opposing sides to reach a ceasefire. Contrary to custom, the Islamist movement Hamas, which governs de facto in the coastal enclave for 15 years, it remains on the sidelines of the hostilities. The streets of Gaza remained deserted on Saturday morning as waves of Israeli air raids and artillery barrages followed one another, Palestinian television networks showed, after more than a year of relative calm.

The al Quds Brigades have sworn to avenge the targeted assassination of commander Taysir al Jabari, better known as Abu Mahmud, in the first Israeli attack on Friday. A missile hit his house in the Gaza capital. Al Jabari acted as a liaison with Hamas, according to Israel’s intelligence services. In parallel, the Israeli Army has captured 19 members of the Islamic Jihad in the West Bank at dawn this Saturday.

Precision missile strikes have destroyed five rocket launch pads and six weapons factories in Gaza, according to a spokesman for the Armed Forces. Israeli health authorities have reported no personal injury caused by the rocket fire, beyond a few civilians bruised in falls as they ran for cover in bomb shelters. The Army claims that 60 of the 160 rockets fired by Islamic Jihad were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Most of the rest of the shells failed to hit Israeli territory.

Egypt has invited a delegation from the Islamic Jihad to travel to Cairo on Saturday to negotiate a ceasefire. A spokesman for the Israeli Army specified that, for the moment, no talks have been undertaken for a ceasefire and that the offensive baptized as the Rise of Dawn continues its course. The General Staff, which has mobilized 25,000 reservists and moved two divisions to the Gaza border, has warned that the operation could last for at least a week.

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Palestinian Islamists accuse Israel of triggering the escalation. “The Zionist enemy has begun this aggression and must expect a war without quarter,” warned the secretary general of Islamic Jihad, Ziad al Najala, on the Lebanese television channel Al Mayadin, close to the pro-Iranian group Hezbollah. For his part, the Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, assures that he ordered a preventive operation in the face of the “imminent threat” of a retaliatory attack by Islamic Jihad, which he described as “an agent of Iran, which seeks to destroy Israel and kill innocent citizens. Lapid had already announced on Friday night that Operation Dawn’s Awakening will last “as long as it takes.” Meanwhile, the antirocket alarm sirens do not stop sounding in the towns near the Strip.

The current offensive is reminiscent of the one launched in 2019 to bring down Al Jabari’s predecessor in the post of military chief of the northern part of the Strip, Commander Baha Abu al Ata. The Islamist movement Hamas has condemned the death of the leaders of Islamic Jihad, but, as happened three years ago, has refrained from intervening in the current escalation of the war. Instead, the top leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniye, has contacted the mediators of Egypt and Qatar to demand that they put an end to “Israeli crimes in Gaza.”

Rockets fired by Islamic Jihad in Gaza early Saturday morning.MOHAMMED SABER (EFE)

Preventive operation after an incursion in the West Bank

Formally, the Israeli pre-emptive attack took place out of fear of Palestinian armed retaliation for the arrest, earlier this week, of Bassam al Saadi, the military chief of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, in the Jenin area (north of the occupied Palestinian territory). ). Islamic Jihad had demanded, according to reports in the Hebrew press, the release of its commander in the West Bank to stop armed actions, in particular the firing of anti-tank missiles at Israeli vehicles, with which it threatened Israel.

For the centrist Lapid, who faces early elections in the fall, the offensive against the Islamist militias in Gaza may be politically useful in strengthening his security position against his rival at the polls, the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu. , who has led three of the four wars fought in the Strip in the last decade.

Gaza, a narrow territorial strip of 365 square kilometers where 2.3 million inhabitants are crowded, suffered the last large-scale Israeli attack in May last year. That offensive lasted 11 days and claimed the lives of more than 250 Palestinians, including 67 minors, and another 13 people in Israeli territory.

Israel sealed all the crossings it controls on the Gaza border on Tuesday. The state of maximum alert has led to the isolation of thousands of Israelis in the towns and kibbutz (collective farms) that border the Strip. The National Defense Command of the Israeli Army, which also covers civil defense, declared a “special situation” 80 kilometers around the Palestinian Strip, where neighbors must remain in safe places and road and rail communications are cut off.

The strict blockade of the Gaza Strip, with the closure of all border crossings with Israel, threatens to leave the only power plant in the Palestinian enclave without fuel, which barely covers a third of the needs of the enclave. The closure of the Erez crossing, the only one enabled for people between Gaza and Israel, has also deprived dozens of Gazan cancer patients who cannot receive care in hospitals in the Palestinian territory of specialized treatment in hospitals in East Jerusalem.

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