Israel military kills 15 Palestinians in fresh Gaza attacks
The Israeli military killed 15 Palestinians, including three Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commanders along with their wives and children, in a fresh attack on the Gaza Strip.
A total of 40 fighter jets participated in bombing different locations in the besieged enclave just after 2am local time on Tuesday, according to the Israeli military. Another air strike in the afternoon targeted a vehicle in Qarara town in Khan Yunis.
The Palestinian health ministry said at least four children, five women, a dentist and his family were among those killed. Another 22 people were wounded, including three children and seven women, some of whom are in a serious and critical condition.
Three commanders in the al-Quds Brigades (Saraya al-Quds), the military branch of the Islamic Jihad, were killed along with their families in the initial raids.
They were identified by the PIJ as Jihad Ghannam, al-Quds Brigades's general secretary, Khalil al-Bahtini, a northern Gaza commander, and Tareq Izzeldeen, a military commander.
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In a separate air strike more than 15 hours later, two people were killed in a shelling that targeted a vehicle in Qarara near the eastern fence that divides Gaza and Israel, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Their identities were not immediately known.
The Islamic Jihad is considered the second-largest armed group in the Gaza Strip behind Hamas, which governs the enclave.
The group said in a statement that a response to the Israeli aggression "will not take long".
"The bombardment will be met by bombardment and the attack will be met by an attack," said Islamic Jihad spokesperson Tareq Selmi. "This crime will not pass unpunished."
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar, said: "Assassination of leaders will not bring the occupation security but more resistance."
The Joint Operations Room (JOR), an umbrella body of armed factions in Gaza, including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, said in a statement that Israel "will pay the price" for the attack.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said in the morning that the military, working with the Shin Bet intelligence service, targeted the leadership of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza in a "precise" operation. Shortly after the initial air strikes, the Israeli military acknowledged the attack, which it called "Operation Shield and Arrow".
Commenting on the second raid in the afternoon, the military said it struck an anti-tank guided missile cell.
In fear of reprisal attacks from Palestinian groups, Israeli cities near the frontier with Gaza opened public bomb shelters and dozens of families evacauted their homes, moving to other parts of the country.
Roads near Gaza and beaches in the southern Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod have been closed.
Civilian deaths condemned
In a brief statement, the Palestinian health ministry mourned Israel's killing of Jamal Khaswan, a well-known dentist and the chairman of al-Wafa Hospital's board of directors.
He was killed with his wife, Merfat Khaswan, and their child, Yousef Khaswan.
"The Ministry of Health mourns with great sadness Dr Jamal Khaswan, who was martyred at dawn today, alongside his wife and son, as a result of the brutal Zionist attack on Gaza City," the statement said.
"Dr Khaswan was a man of great patriotic and medical dedication."
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland condemned the "unacceptable" killing of civilians.
"I condemn the deaths of civilians in the Israeli air strikes. This is unacceptable," Wennesland said.
An Israeli military spokesperson said they were "aware of some collateral" but had no immediate comment.
The attack comes a week after a brief exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza left one Palestinian killed and two Israelis wounded.
It followed the death of prominent Palestinian hunger striker Khader Adnan, who was a member of the Islamic Jihad in the occupied West Bank.
The Tuesday air strikes were the largest attack mounted by Israel against Gaza since August last year, when the military assassinated senior PIJ commander Taiseer al-Jabari, triggering a three-day exchange of fire.
At least 49 Palestinians were killed in the 2022 Israeli bombardment, including 17 children, and 360 others were wounded.
More than two million Palestinians are packed into Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas. Under blockade by Israel since 2006, the besieged coastal enclave has been described as "the world's largest open-air prison".
Israel withdrew its troops from the Strip in 2005, but maintains tight control of Gaza's airspace, land and sea borders, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse.
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