The IDF claims to have neutralized several top Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders
At least 10 people were killed in the latest round of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, according to the region’s health ministry, with the Israeli military claiming to have targeted senior members of a leading Palestinian militant group.
The strikes left several people injured in addition to the 10 killed, the health ministry told Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed, who noted that explosions were heard near a residential area around 2am local time.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not provide a figure for casualties, but issued a rare statement confirming its operations in Gaza, claiming to have killed top members of the Islamic Jihad militant group. Those included Khalil Bahtini, who heads the group’s branch in northern Gaza, Jahad A’Nam, the secretary of its military council, and Tarek Ezz Al-Din, who was accused of planning attacks in the occupied West Bank.
Footage circulating on social media purported to show the Israeli strikes in progress, with a large explosion filmed near the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Dubbing its operation ‘Shield and Arrow,’ the IDF said it was “attacking additional terrorist targets” in Gaza following its statement earlier on Tuesday morning. Apparently expecting retaliation from Palestinian fighters, the military instructed Israelis living near the border with Gaza to stay close to a “protected area,” such as a basement or bomb shelter.
The flare-up of violence comes just days after Israel and Islamic Jihad members exchanged fire over the death of Khader Adnan, a senior militant commander who perished following an 86-day hunger strike in Israeli custody. Dozens of rockets were reportedly fired toward Israel, prompting retaliatory air raids by the IDF, though the two sides were later said to have reached a temporary ceasefire.
While Israeli strikes on Gaza are not uncommon, the death of top Islamic Jihad leaders could stoke a harsh response. In 2019, the assassination of another senior member, Bahaa Abu el-Atta, triggered days of heavy fighting, with militants firing a flurry of rockets toward Israeli cities, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv. At least eight people were killed in subsequent IDF strikes.