The Israeli army and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged more fire on Saturday morning, when the strip’s largest conflagration in a year occurred on a second day.
Israel targeted what it said were missile factories and depots belonging to Islamic Jihad, the second largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas, as Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortars over Israeli towns closest to the outskirts of the area. lying down.
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, while two Israelis were injured while seeking shelter on Friday.
Most projectiles that entered Israeli territory appeared to have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or to have fallen into open areas, although a rocket hit an Israeli community near the Gaza border on Saturday morning, slightly injuring a civilian. Israeli media reports. By midday, sirens warned of incoming rocket fire further north, in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
No ceasefire appeared imminent, despite early mediation efforts by international actors, including the United Nations. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the political bureau of Hamas, the main Islamist militant group in Gaza, said he had spoken overnight with officials from Egypt and Qatar, as well as the United Nations.
The battle began Friday afternoon when Israel launched airstrikes that it said were a preemptive effort to thwart an imminent attack from Gaza by Islamic Jihad, following nearly a week of mounting tensions between Israel and the militant group.
Israel arrested one of the group’s senior commanders in the West Bank this week, sparking retaliation threats from Gaza leaders, for an Israeli airstrike on Friday that killed Taysir al-Jabari, a senior leader of the Al-Quds Brigades. armed wing of Islamic Jihad.
On Saturday morning, an Israeli military spokesman, Ran Kochav, told Israeli public radio that the fighting would most likely last at least a week and that no negotiations were underway.
But overnight, the militants reduced the range of their rocket fire, mainly targeting areas close to Gaza rather than cities further north that they had initially targeted.
Analysts said recalibration could prevent the situation from escalating further, as could a decision by Hamas to stay on the sidelines of the fighting.
Islamic Jihad is a second, smaller Gaza-based militia that sometimes acts independently of Hamas, which does not always support the secondary group in its rocket wars with Israel, particularly in 2019.
Israeli officials have said they are only targeting Islamic Jihad after saying the latter was about to fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets Friday afternoon.
To underscore that point, the Israeli military also announced that it had arrested 19 members of Islamic Jihad during nighttime raids on the occupied West Bank.
Israel also closed public beaches along the coastline north of Gaza pending further rocket fire there.