Air war between Gaza militants and Israel continues for second day

On Saturday morning, Israeli military and Palestinian militants in Gaza opened a new exchange of fire. the largest fire in the strip for the year moved on to the second day.

Israel targeted what it said were missile factories and warehouses belonging to Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas, while Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortars at Israeli towns closest to the edge territory.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, one Palestinian was killed in the overnight strikes, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to 11, including a 5-year-old girl, and two Israelis were injured while seeking shelter on Friday.

Most of the shells that entered Israel appear to have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or landed in open areas, although one rocket hit an Israeli community near the Gaza border on Saturday morning, causing one civilian to receive light wounds. This is reported by the Israeli media. At noon, sirens warning of incoming rocket fire sounded further north in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

A ceasefire did not appear imminent, despite early mediation efforts by international actors, including the United Nations. Ismail Haniya, leader of the politburo of Hamas, the main Islamist militant group in Gaza, said he spoke with officials from Egypt and Qatar, as well as United Nations officials, during the night.

The battle began on Friday afternoon when Israel launched airstrikes that it said were a preemptive attempt to thwart an imminent attack from Gaza by Islamic Jihad after nearly a week of rising tensions between Israel and the militant group.

This week, Israel arrested a senior commander of the group in the West Bank, leading to threats of retaliation from his leadership in Gaza, before an Israeli airstrike on Friday that killed Tayseer al-Jabari, a senior commander of the Al-Quds Brigades, armed wing of Islamic Jihad.

On Saturday morning, Israeli military spokesman Ran Kochav told Israeli public radio that the fighting would likely last at least a week and that no negotiations were taking place.

But overnight, the militants reduced the range of their rocket fire, targeting mostly areas close to Gaza rather than cities further north, which they had originally targeted.

Analysts say recalibration could prevent further escalation of the situation, as would Hamas’ decision to stay out of the fighting.

Islamic Jihad is a second, smaller militia in Gaza that sometimes operates independently of Hamas, which has not always supported the minor group in its missile wars with Israel, especially in 2019.

Israeli officials have said they are only targeting Islamic Jihad, after they said the latter was on the verge of launching anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets on Friday afternoon.

To highlight this, the Israeli military also announced the arrest of 19 Islamic Jihad fighters during nighttime raids in the occupied West Bank.

Israel has also closed public beaches along the coastline north of Gaza, pending further rocket attacks.