Senior militants among 12 killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza

Gaza (Caasimada Online) – Israel launched a series of pre-dawn air strikes on Tuesday against the militant group Islamic Jihad in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of 12 people, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.

Among the casualties were women and children, though further details about the victims’ identities were not provided.

An AFP journalist in Gaza reported the top of a building on fire after the air strikes and ambulances evacuating victims.

The Israeli army said it had targeted three leaders of Islamic Jihad, which it considers a terrorist organization, and had struck “weapon manufacturing sites” belonging to the group.

Islamic Jihad confirmed the deaths of three senior officials: Jihad Ghannam, secretary of the Al-Quds Brigades military council; Khalil al-Bahtini, also of the council and commander of the military wing in northern Gaza; and Tareq Ezzedine, described as “one of the heads of military action” in the occupied West Bank who operated from Gaza.

Islamic Jihad vows retaliation

In Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, an AFP photographer saw Ghannam’s body.

Islamic Jihad released a statement mourning the leaders and their families, denouncing the attack as a “cowardly Zionist crime” and vowing that “the blood of martyrs will increase (the) resolve” of the movement.

The air strikes began shortly after 2 am (2300 GMT) and continued for nearly two hours, with explosions heard in the east.

This operation occurred less than a week after Islamic Jihad announced a truce around Gaza, brokered with help from Egypt, following a recent surge in violence.

Israel and Gaza militants exchanged cross-border fire after the death of Khader Adnan in Israeli detention.

Adnan had been on hunger strike for 87 days following his arrest over ties to Islamic Jihad.

On Tuesday, the militant group accused Israel of disregarding “all the initiatives of mediators” and promised to “avenge the leaders” killed in the latest air strikes.

Israel and Hamas’ response

In separate statements, the Israeli army detailed each Islamic Jihad figure killed, asserting its commitment to “operate for the security of the civilians in the state of Israel.”

Ghannam was described as “one of the most senior members of the organization,” coordinating weapons and money transfers between Hamas and his movement.

Bahtini was said to be “responsible for the rocket fire toward Israel in the past month,” while Ezzedine was recently “planning and directing multiple attacks against Israeli” civilians in the West Bank.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh stated, “assassinating the leadership in a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but rather greater resistance.”

The militant group’s spokesman, Hazem Qassem, warned that Israel “bears responsibility for the repercussions of this escalation.”

Israel and Gaza militants have fought multiple wars since Hamas took control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007.

A three-day conflict in August of last year resulted in 49 Palestinian fatalities and none on the Israeli side.

This year, 120 Palestinians and 21 others, including 19 Israelis, one Ukrainian, and one Italian, have been killed in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an AFP count based on official sources from both sides.