Fighting escalates between Israeli and Palestinian militants

Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Wednesday as Israel continued a series of airstrikes that killed 23 Palestinians, including three senior militants and at least 10 civilians.

A state-run Egyptian television channel reported that Egypt, a frequent mediator between the parties, had brokered a ceasefire. But truce efforts appeared to falter as fighting escalated late Wednesday, with neither side showing any signs of backing down.

Early Thursday, the Israeli army said it was carrying out airstrikes against targets of Islamic Jihad militant groups in Gaza.

According to Palestinian media, the strikes targeted a building in a residential compound in the southern Gaza Strip, killing at least two people, including an Islamic Jihad commander.

The Israeli military did not give details and there was no comment from the militant group on the latest airstrike on the Qatari-built compound.

“This round is not over”

In a prime-time televised address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel had dealt a heavy blow to the activists. But he warned: “This round is not over.”

A building in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, was seen early Thursday after being damaged by an Israeli airstrike. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

“We tell the terrorists and those who send them. We see you everywhere. You cannot hide, and we choose where and when to strike you,” he said, adding that Israel would also decide. back to calm.

Throughout the day, rocket fire triggered air raid sirens throughout southern and central Israel, some 80 kilometers away.

Residents had been preparing for an attack since Israel launched its first airstrikes early Tuesday.

It was the heaviest fighting between the sides in months, bringing the region one step closer to a full-fledged war.

But, in a sign that both sides were trying to exercise restraint, Israel avoided attacks on the ruling Hamas militant group, targeting only the smaller, more militant Islamic Jihad faction. Hamas, meanwhile, seemed to be on the sidelines.

Egypt calls for a ceasefire

On Wednesday evening, Egyptian television channel Extra News, which has close ties to Egyptian security agencies, said it had brokered a ceasefire. Egyptian intelligence services frequently mediate between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Israeli officials confirmed that Egypt was trying to facilitate a ceasefire. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes diplomacy, they said Israel would assess the situation based on actions on the ground, not statements.

Israeli police examine the site where a rocket landed in Ashkelon, Israel.
Israeli police examine the site of a rocket strike in Ashkelon, Israel, on Wednesday. (Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press)

Islamic Jihad said it would continue to fire rockets. Mohamad al-Hindi, an official with the group, said a sticking point in the talks was that the Palestinians wanted an Israeli commitment to end targeted killing operations, such as those that killed three senior Islamic Jihad commanders earlier. Tuesday.

As the rockets streaked across the sky, Israeli TV channels showed air defense systems intercepting rockets above the skies of Tel Aviv. In the nearby suburb of Ramat Gan, people lay face down as they took cover.

The Israeli military said that for the first time an air defense system known as David’s Sling intercepted a rocket. The system, developed with the United States, is intended to intercept medium-range threats and is part of a multi-layered air defense that also includes the better-known Iron Dome anti-rocket system. Israeli media said a previous attempt to use the system several years ago had failed.

In a move that could further heighten tensions, Israeli police said they would allow an ultranationalist Jewish parade to take place next week. The parade, meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem and its Jewish holy sites, marches through the heart of the Old City’s Muslim Quarter and often leads to friction with local Palestinians.

Israeli officials said more than 400 rockets were fired Wednesday evening. Most, they said, were intercepted or fell in open areas, but Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said about a quarter were missed and fell inside Gaza.

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