Israel, Militants Edge Closer to War as Airstrikes Intensify

Israeli bomb kills another Islamic Jihad commander, as militants retaliate with missiles
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 7, 2022 8:14 AM CDT
Israel, Militants Edge Closer to War as Airstrikes Intensify
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants toward Israel, in Gaza City, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022.   (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

(Newser) – Israel said Sunday that it killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a crowded Gaza refugee camp, the second such targeted attack since it launched its high-stakes military offensive against the militant group before the weekend. The Iran-backed militant group has fired hundreds of rockets at Israel in response, and the risk of the cross-border fighting turning into a full-fledged war remained high, per the AP. Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, which fought an 11-day war with Israel in May 2021, appeared to stay on the sidelines for now, possibly because it fears Israeli reprisals and undoing economic understandings with Israel, including Israeli work permits for thousands of Gaza residents, that bolster its control.

The Islamic Jihad commander, Khaled Mansour, was killed in an airstrike on an apartment building in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza late Saturday. Two other militants and five civilians were also killed in the attack, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 31 since the start of the offensive on Friday. Among the dead are six children. The Palestinian Health Ministry said more than 250 people have been wounded since Friday. Israel has said it took action against the militant group because of concrete threats of an imminent attack, but has not provided details. Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is an experienced diplomat but untested in overseeing a war, unleashed the offensive less than three months before a general election in which he is campaigning to keep the job.

Islamic Jihad has fewer fighters and supporters than Hamas, and little is known about its weapons arsenal. Both groups call for Israel's destruction, but have different priorities, with Hamas constrained by the demands of governing. In Jerusalem on Sunday, air raid sirens sounded for the first time Sunday since last year’s Israel-Hamas war. Jerusalem is typically a flash point during periods of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza. On Sunday, hundreds of Jews, including firebrand ultra-nationalist lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The visit, under heavy police protection, ended without incident.

(Read more Israel stories.)

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