One Killed, Several Injured in Israel as Cease-fire Between Israel, Islamic Jihad Remains Out of Reach
Israel continues targeted killings in Gaza, taking out Islamic Jihad leadership
One person was killed and several were injured in Israel after a rocket launched from Gaza hit a residential building on Thursday, the third and most violent day in this recent round of fighting between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
This was the first Israeli death during Israel’s Shield and Arrow operation, which has involved a renewed campaign of targeted assassinations in Gaza including two more Thursday afternoon. Palestinian health officials said that 28 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip.
While most of the rocket fire aimed at Israel has been concentrated on communities closer to the Gaza border, the deadly rocket hit a building in Rehovot, around 28 miles northeast of the Palestinian coastal enclave.
Rocket attacks continued throughout the day despite talks of a cease-fire being brokered by Egypt. No agreement had been reached as of press time.
Israeli security officials said Operation Shield and Arrow has combined Israeli military and intelligence in order to strike the leadership, operational headquarters, warehouses, concealed rocket launchers, military posts, and mortar shell launching posts of the PIJ in the last three days.
The Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Beit security agency also operated in the West Bank arresting “25 terrorist operatives associated with” PIJ, according to a joint IDF-Shin Bet statement.
On Thursday, Israel said it killed two more high-ranking leaders—Ali Hassan Ghali and Ahmed Abu Daka—the first and second in command of the PIJ rocket force.
“We started with the [senior] command in the opening strike. From there we continued for a second attack last night where we killed the head of the rocket array. And now we killed his deputy,” the head of the IDF Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, told reporters.
As of Thursday afternoon, the IDF said 547 rockets and mortar shells were launched at Israel, of which 124 fell short of the border, landing in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said anti-missile systems intercepted 175 rockets and shells that crossed into Israeli airspace, and most of the others fell in open areas.
This latest round of fighting began last week after Khader Adnan, a PIJ member who had been on a hunger strike, died in an Israeli prison. PIJ launched over 100 rockets the next day, but Israel refrained from an immediate response. Instead, Israel waited and carried out precision airstrikes early Tuesday morning. On Wednesday, PIJ launched more than 300 rockets, many of which landed within Gaza.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Israel picked its own timing for retaliation.
I understand very well the desire to immediately harm those who harm us, it is understandable and natural. But it has been said that ‘by wise counsel shall you make war.’ And this is how we act. We will always act against those who seek to take our lives, and we do it on our own terms—at a time and place of our choosing.
“I understand very well the desire to immediately harm those who harm us, it is understandable and natural. But it has been said that ‘by wise counsel shall you make war,’” he said. “And this is how we act. We will always act against those who seek to take our lives, and we do it on our own terms—at a time and place of our choosing.”
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a relatively small organization, maybe in the low thousands. That makes the sustained rocket campaign all the more surprising. They’ve suffered significant losses but still have been able to fire back in a sustained manner at Israel.
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Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Media Line that Israel has “endeavored to be surgical in terms of the way they have targeted these individuals.”
“There is undeniably an effort to take out the leadership of Islamic Jihad,” he said.
“Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a relatively small organization, maybe in the low thousands,” Schanzer said. “That makes the sustained rocket campaign all the more surprising. They’ve suffered significant losses but still have been able to fire back in a sustained manner at Israel.”
Despite the blows to its ranks, PIJ’s military wing spokesperson Abu Hamza said the organization is “determined to continue as long as necessary, and also to expand our activities.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu was holding a security assessment with intelligence officers on Thursday night as rockets continued to fly over Israel.
So far, Hamas, the terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip, has stayed on the sidelines of the fighting.
“Hamas appears to be content to be on the sidelines and we saw this last year as well” during another bout between Israel and PIJ. “Hamas’ goal is instead to export the conflict to two different places. No. 1 is the West Bank which they would like to have control over. … And then the other place is Lebanon” from where the group launched rockets at Israel last month.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Office expressed its “alarm” over the fighting, saying that Israel had struck residential buildings, killing six children and four women.
“We are concerned about whether the IDF took sufficient precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimize, loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects,” the statement said.
The UN also condemned “the launching of indiscriminate rockets from Gaza into Israel, which puts at risk both Israeli and Palestinian civilians, violates international humanitarian law.”
“We urge all parties to take measures to de-escalate, and conduct prompt and transparent investigation into all killings, especially of civilians,” the statement said.