NAIROBI, Kenya — The chairman of the African Union Commission on Sunday condemned Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip as part of the recent flare-up of violence there.
Moussa Faki Mahamat “strongly condemns the continued air strike attacks by Israel on Gaza that have killed more than 30 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children,” an AU statement said.
The “targeting of civilians and the continued illegal occupation by Israeli security forces of the Occupied Territories, are in stark violation of international law, and complicate the search for a just and lasting solution,” the statement said.
Israel says it never targets civilians and is specifically assaulting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group and its infrastructure, though it acknowledges that civilians are sometimes unintended casualties of a war against an organization that operates from within population centers.
Of the 31 confirmed killed in the Gaza Strip, it is currently unknown how many were terrorists. The Israel Defense Forces says numerous terrorists from Palestinian Islamic Jihad are among the dead in the multiple waves of strikes that have been targeting positions and facilities belonging to the terror group in the Gaza Strip.
At least two of those killed have been confirmed by the IDF as Islamic Jihad’s top brass of military commanders.
Additionally, Israel says a blast that reportedly killed seven civilians in northern Gaza Saturday night was not the result of an IDF airstrike, as some Palestinian media outlets have said, but rather a PIJ rocket that misfired and hit a home in Gaza, one of dozens that have accidentally fallen inside Gaza’s territory in the past three days.
A second failed PIJ rocket killed another two people on Sunday, according to the military.
The Gaza operation was launched after several days of closures and lockdowns in Israeli communities near the Strip due to the alert of an imminent attack, with the PIJ seeking to avenge Israel’s arrest of its West Bank leader last Monday.
Israeli leaders said the operation was started because Islamic Jihad had refused to back down from its plans to attack Israeli targets close to the border.
The recent fighting is the worst in Gaza since hostilities broke out in May 2021, when an 11-day battle claimed the lives of 256 Palestinians and 14 on the Israeli side.
Israel has stepped up its bombardment of Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group designated as a terrorist organization by several Western nations, and the terrorists have fired over 500 rockets in return.
The relationship with Israel is a rare point of contention for the African Union, a body that values consensus, with powerful member states, notably South Africa, loudly protesting a decision by Mahamat, the chairman, last year to accept Israel’s accreditation to the bloc as an observer.
The decision was a major diplomatic win for Israel, but opposing member nations said it contradicted numerous AU statements – including from Mahamat himself – backing the Palestinians.
In its statement on Sunday, the AU reiterated its support for “the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state” with East Jerusalem as its capital.