Tensions rise in Gaza Strip as Israeli strike kills second militant leader

Hostilities between Israel and Gaza Strip militants have been at their worst in more than a year, with an Israeli airstrike killing a senior official of the militant group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Over the past three days, the Israeli army has repeatedly Gaza bombing site — a barren land between Israel and Egypt, home to more than 2 million Palestinians — while Islamic Jihad has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

According to the Ministry of Health Gaza, 31 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting began, including six children and four women. There were no reports of Israeli deaths.

Israel said on Sunday that among the dead was Khaled Mansour, who directed Islamic Jihad operations in southern Gaza and was targeted by airstrikes on Saturday. His opponent in northern Gaza, Tessir Jabari, was killed in a strike in Israel on Friday, sparking the latest round of fighting.

Since Israel and the militant group that rules Gaza, Hamas and last year’s 11 day war.

Israel It said it had launched airstrikes in response to the “imminent threat” from Islamic Jihad after last week’s arrest of another senior member of the group in the occupied West Bank sparked days of tension.

Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed group founded in the 1980s, responded by firing a barrage of rockets at Israel, setting off alarms in the south and central parts of the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Yar Rapid said on Sunday that the Israeli military was continuing to strike “terrorist targets and agents and thwart rocket-launching teams”.

“This operation will continue as long as necessary,” he said.

In addition to the 31 Palestinians killed, the “Israeli aggression” had left 265 injured, the Gaza Health Ministry said.

Israeli airstrikes have killed 17 militants, an Israeli official said. Israeli officials also said the killing of a child in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza was caused by a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad militants that missed its target.

Islamic Jihad militants fired rockets at Jerusalem on Sunday morning, but they were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system west of the city. A rocket fired at Tel Aviv, Israel’s Mediterranean commercial hub, was also intercepted on Saturday.

As of Sunday morning, 580 rockets had been fired at Israel, an Israeli military spokesman said, adding that 97 percent of the 450 rockets that reached Israel had been intercepted.

The fighting in Gaza has raised fears that Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007 and has a more powerful military than Islamic Jihad, could join the fight. In the past 15 years, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars.

As of Sunday, Hamas had not joined, although its spokesman, Hazem Qasem, issued a statement saying Israel was “misguided” into believing it could “undermine the growing resistance movement across Palestine by assassinating Palestinian resistance commanders.”

The conflict has further exacerbated Gaza’s already devastated economy. After arresting senior Islamic Jihad official Bassam al-Saadi in the West Bank last week, Israel closed border crossings into the strip for fear of reprisals.

The shutdowns prevented fuel from being supplied to Gaza’s only power plant, which ceased operation on Saturday, adding to the blackouts already plaguing the region.

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