Shield and Sword
Israeli Defence Forces carry out a second day of airstrikes killing 21 Palestinians and injuring 42 others with scores of homes destroyed
Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) airstrikes have killed 21 people in the latest round of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza on Wednesday, according to the region’s health ministry. The Israeli military claims that it targeted senior members of a leading Palestinian militant group.
The airstrikes began Tuesday around 2am local time and left at least 42 people injured in addition to the 21 killed, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a rare statement confirming its operations in Gaza, claiming to have killed three 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 southern Gaza.
Dubbing its operation ‘Shield and Arrow,’ the IDF said it was “attacking additional terrorist targets” in Gaza following its initial statement. 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.
Palestinian militants launched hundreds of rockets across the border, setting off sirens as far away as Tel Aviv, while Egypt began efforts to mediate an end to the fighting.
Israel was examining Egypt’s proposals, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told public broadcaster Kan. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks that Islamic Jihad had sustained a serious blow, but cautioned: “The campaign is not over yet.”
Minutes after air-strikes began, sirens sounded in Israel — initially among border communities but soon also in and around the commercial capital Tel Aviv, 60 km (37 miles) north of Gaza.
More than 400 rockets were fired, Netanyahu said, a quarter of which fell short in Gaza.
The joint command of Gaza’s militant groups, which includes Islamic Jihad and the enclave’s Hamas rulers, claimed responsibility for the salvoes.
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 34 people were killed in subsequent IDF strikes, but Israel insisted 25 of them were militants.