Israel warns aerial onslaught against Gaza militants may last a week


Images show a new rocket fired at Israel from Gaza. The Palestinian militant group of Islamic Jihad retaliated with a barrage of rocket fire following deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, in the territory’s worst escalation of violence since a war last year. IMAGES

Israel’s military warned Saturday deadly air strikes against Palestinian militants in Gaza could last a week, as cross-border fire reverberated for a second day in the worst escalation since last year’s war.

Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, saying the group was planning an imminent attack following days of tensions along the border with Gaza.

Civilians meanwhile took refuge in air raid shelters on the Israeli side, with AFP journalists hearing sirens warning of incoming fire in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday evening.

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Daily life in the enclave has come to a standstill, while the electricity distributor said the sole power station shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.

There have been no reports of Israelis wounded by rockets, though officials said a home was hit and land was set ablaze by income fire near the border.

An Israeli military spokesman said its forces were “preparing for the operation to last a week,” and told AFP that the army is “not currently holding ceasefire negotiations”.

Israel and Islamic Jihad confirmed the killing of Taysir al-Jabari, a key commander of the militant group, in a Friday strike.

“Islamic Jihad is reacting in a limited manner and by doing so is preventing the occupation (Israeli military) from intensifying its air strikes,” he told AFP.

Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.

Hamas’s moves now could prove crucial.

“But if more civilians are killed, then it will feel obligated to respond,” she told AFP.

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” was among those killed by Israeli fire.

Israeli military spokesman Richard Hecht said Friday “we are assuming about 15 killed in action” in Gaza, referring to Palestinian combatants.

Israel on Saturday broadened its operation against Islamic Jihad, announcing the arrest of 19 people in the West Bank it said were members of the group.

bur-rsc/kir

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