GAZA CITY: Israel struck in Gaza and Palestinians fired rockets at Israeli cities on Saturday, as cross-border fire reverberated for a second day in the worst escalation since last year’s war.
Health authorities in Gaza, controlled by militant group Hamas, said a five-year-old girl was among 13 people killed by the Israeli bombardment, adding that more than 110 others have been wounded.
Israel on Friday killed a senior commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group in a surprise daytime air strike on a high-rise building in Gaza City, which drew rocket salvos in response.
On Saturday, Israel said it struck the group’s militants preparing to launch rockets and militant posts. Additional bombings targeted five houses, witnesses said, sending huge clouds of smoke and debris into the air as explosions rocked Gaza City.
Tel Aviv warns deadly operations could last a week; FO, Shehbaz and Imran strongly condemn air strikes
Israel’s military has warned deadly aerial operations in Gaza could last a week. The Jewish state claimed it was forced to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, insisting the militant group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza, a Palestinian enclave.
Sources within Islamic Jihad ruled out a ceasefire soon, with one saying: “for the moment the focus is on the battlefield”.
Israel and Islamic Jihad confirmed the killing of Taysir al-Jabari, a key leader of the militant group, in a Friday strike on a building in the west of Gaza city.
Daily life in the enclave has come to a standstill, with streets largely deserted and most shops closed. Its sole power station ground to a halt due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings days earlier, according to the electricity distributor.
Civilians on the Israeli side meanwhile repeatedly fled to air shelters, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
‘Declaration of war’
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. It declared that the initial Israeli bombardment amounted to a “declaration of war”.
In a nationally televised address on Friday, Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid had warned the country “isn’t interested in a wider conflict in Gaza but will not shy away from one either”.
Jamal al-Fadi, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University, said he expected the violence to end “within days”.
“Islamic Jihad is reacting in a limited manner and by doing so is preventing the occupation (Israeli military) from intensifying its airstrikes,” he said.
Mohammed Abu Salameh, the director of Shifa, Gaza City’s main hospital, said medics are facing “acute shortages of medical supplies”.
On Friday, the health ministry reported “a five-year-old girl, targeted by the Israeli occupation” was among those killed.
The girl, Alaa Kaddum, had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead, as her body was carried by her father at her funeral.
Pakistan denounces killing of Palestinians
Pakistan strongly condemned the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. “Martyrdom of 10 Palestinians, including a five-year-old girl, in Gaza is the latest act of Israeli terrorism,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tweeted on Saturday. “If impunity and barbarism had a face, it would have been that of Israel, which has targeted Palestinians without any care for consequences.”
The Foreign Office spokesperson said the latest spate of aggression was typical of the Israeli atrocities, illegal actions and indiscriminate use of force against innocent Palestinians over the decades in complete defiance of international human rights and humanitarian laws.
“Pakistan calls upon the international community to urge Israel to put an immediate end to the blatant use of force and flagrant violations of human rights of the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement.
“It is imperative to immediately stop the aggression. We renew our call for a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State, with pre-1967 borders, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital being the only just, comprehensive and lasting solution of the Palestinian question, in accordance with the relevant United Nations and OIC resolutions,” he added.
PTI chairman Imran Khan said Israeli forces launched air strikes against Palestinians in sheer violation of all international laws. “Israel is trying to use its massive military power to subjugate the Palestinian people and eliminate those who stand up for their rights and for end to Israeli occupation,” he tweeted.
“We stand with the brave Palestinian people and ask world powers to break their silence and act against Israeli atrocities committed on the Palestinian people,” he said in another Twitter post and reiterated that peace could only come through a viable two-state solution.
Britain called for a “swift end to the violence” in the Gaza Strip, while the United States urged calm from both sides. Washington, however, stuck to its old line that Israel had the right to defend itself.
“We certainly urge all sides to avoid further escalation... We absolutely fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist groups that are taking the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Russia, whose ties with Israel have been tested by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, appeared to pin initial blame on the Jewish state.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow was calling “on all the parties involved to show maximum restraint”.
“The new escalation was caused by Israeli army firing into the Gaza Strip on Aug 5, to which Palestinian groups responded by carrying out massive and indiscriminate bombardments on Israeli territory,” she said.
The European Union called for maximum restraint. The EU “follows with great concern the latest developments in and around Gaza”, a spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
United Nations Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply concerned”, warning that the escalation was “very dangerous”.
Egypt, historically a broker between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, has reportedly been seeking to mediate and may host a delegation from Islamic Jihad over the weekend.
The Arab League “condemned in the strongest possible terms the ferocious Israeli aggression against Gaza”, whereas Jordan’s foreign ministry has “stressed the importance of halting the Israeli aggression”.
Iran, a supporter of Gaza militants, said the territory was “not alone” in its fight. “We are with you on this path until the end, and let Palestine and the Palestinians know that they are not alone,” Revolutionary Guards chief Maj Gen Hossein Salami told Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhala during a meeting in Tehran.
Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2022