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Israel bombs Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad leaders and nine civilians

Tuesday, 09 May, 2023, 19:36
Israel bombs Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad leaders and nine civilians

Israeli airstrikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip targeting the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad have killed three senior operatives and at least nine civilians, including three children, according to the Israeli army and Palestinian officials.

A total of 40 jets took part in Operation Shield and Arrow, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said, conducting strikes that lasted about two hours starting at 2am (12am BST) on Tuesday.
In a statement, Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, confirmed that three of its commanders were killed. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad vowed to retaliate, and the region remained braced for further violence.

The unexpected Israeli attack came despite a fragile ceasefire in place since a day of cross-frontier exchanges of fire last week triggered by the death on hunger strike of Khader Adnan, a prominent political figure affiliated with Islamic Jihad held in Israeli custody.

On Tuesday, large public funeral processions in Gaza got under way, while the Israeli defence ministry prepared to evacuate around 6,500 Israelis living near the frontier in case of further fighting.

Israel reportedly relayed messages to Hamas via Egyptian mediators that it was targeting the smaller Islamic Jihad rather than the dominant militant group. Wary of escalation, Hamas has stayed on the sidelines during recent escalations, while allowing Islamic Jihad to operate. But given Tuesday’s unusual targeted operation, and the high death toll, Hamas is now under significant pressure to respond.

Tensions in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict have soared over the past year: more than 100 Palestinians and at least 19 Israelis and foreigners have been killed in 2023 so far across Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading to fears of wider escalation.