An Israeli airstrike in Gaza killed a Palestinian Islamic Jihad military commander early Thursday morning, dealing another blow to the terror group in the latest round of hostilities and further dampening hopes for a ceasefire.
The predawn airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis killed Ali Ghali, the commander of Islamic Jihad’s rocket forces, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Ghali was hiding in a safehouse at the time of the strike along with two other Islamic Jihad operatives who were also killed, the IDF said.
“Ghali was responsible for directing and carrying out rocket fire at Israeli territory, including the recent barrages during Operation Shield and Arrow,” the IDF said, using Israel’s name for this week’s Gaza operation.
“Ghali was considered a central figure in the organization and dealt with its routine management,” the IDF said.
“The strike was carried out thanks to successful intelligence, the identification of the hideout apartment, one floor where the operatives were struck — this was a very precise attack by the Air Force,” IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters on Thursday morning.
Footage from the targeted Hamas Tower in northern Khan Younis. IDF announced they are targeting PIJ Saraya Al-Quds positions just after the initial reports of this strike which appears to have been conducted with GBU-39 SDB. Bodies have been transferred to Nasser Hospital. pic.twitter.com/6tmJ7PlVZK
— Aurora Intel (@AuroraIntel) May 10, 2023
Islamic Jihad confirmed Ghali’s death after the IDF’s early morning announcement.
“Ali Ghali… commander of the rocket launch unit… was assassinated in the south of the Gaza Strip along with other martyrs,” read a statement from the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed branch of the group.
Operation Shield and Arrow was launched early Tuesday with the assassinations of three other top Islamic Jihad commanders.
The terror group responded by firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli communities, causing extensive material damage across southern Israel late Wednesday.
Homes, buildings and cars were hit by shrapnel from rockets or from falling Israeli interceptor missiles in cities including Sderot, Ashkelon and Netivot, as some rockets managed to penetrate Israel’s air defenses. The strikes marked a sharp shift from earlier in the day, when a flurry of rockets failed to cause any damage.
No injuries were reported, though a number of people sought treatment for wounds suffered as they tried to reach shelter, or because of severe anxiety from nearby impacts.
The rocket fire reached as far as Tel Aviv and Beersheba.
In response to the evening bombardments, the IDF said it struck several Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, including a weapons factory, a facility used by its naval forces, and a rocket launching site.
Before the latest barrages, Israeli officials had said they were considering an Egyptian ceasefire proposal to end the fighting, but the rockets and Israeli reprisals set back the negotiations.
The assassination of Ghali appeared likely to further distance the two sides from a truce. On Wednesday, an Islamic Jihad official said the group was delaying the deal until Israel promised to stop the targeted killings of its leadership.
There was no official word about progress toward a ceasefire on Thursday morning. Security restrictions in southern Israel remained in place, including rules mandating school closures within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Gaza and limiting outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people.
The government also canceled negotiations between the coalition and opposition that were scheduled for Thursday due to the security situation. The talks are meant to reach a broad consensus over the coalition’s contentious effort to overhaul Israel’s judicial system and have been held at the president’s official residence in Jerusalem since March.
At least 25 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched the surprise offensive on Tuesday morning, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, and dozens more injured. The figure includes both terrorists targeted by Israel and civilians, as well as civilians believed killed by Islamic Jihad rocket misfires, according to Israeli officials.
Israeli officials have insisted that they are keeping the fight limited to Islamic Jihad and not the larger and better-armed Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, hoping to avoid widening the conflict, while warning that it is prepared to do so if fired upon.
As of Thursday morning, the IDF said Palestinians in Gaza had launched 507 rockets and mortar shells at Israel.
According to the military, at least 368 of the projectiles crossed the border, while 107 fell short in Gaza.
Hagari told reporters that the military was aware of four Palestinians believed to have been killed by rockets that failed to cross the border and landed short in Gaza.
The IDF said air defense systems — the Iron Dome plus the medium-range David’s Sling — intercepted 154 of the rockets, marking a 95 percent interception rate of projectiles heading for populated areas, while a handful landed in urban areas, causing damage.
The military also said it had carried out strikes against 158 targets belonging to Islamic Jihad during the campaign.