Three Islamic Jihad commanders and one from Hamas were killed in targeted strikes by Israeli forces on Tuesday afternoon, as the Israel Defense Forces expanded its airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israeli cities.
The main target of the strike on the Islamic Jihad fighters appeared to have been Sameh Fahim Al-Mamlouk, a senior commander in the terror group’s armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades. The other two fighters were field commanders who oversaw rocket strikes on Israel.
“Those who were eliminated were responsible for rocket fire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, including in the most recent round of escalation,” the Israeli military and the Shin Bet security said in a joint statement.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military added that Israel also conducted an additional targeted killing of a Hamas commander, killing the head of the terror group’s anti-tank guided missile unit in Gaza City. Iyad Fathi Faik Sharir had led a number of attacks against Israel in recent years, the army said.
The three Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in an apartment building in Gaza City’s upscale al-Rimal neighborhood. According to Gaza-based Palestinian media, several others were injured in the attack; it is unclear whether they were civilians or terror group members.
הזרוע הצבאית של הג'יהאד האסלאמי מפרסמת את תמונות שלושת המפקדים שחוסלו בידי צה"ל בבניין רב הקומות בשכונת רימאל בעזה. pic.twitter.com/Kjid6t8yNR
— roi kais • روعي كايس • רועי קייס (@kaisos1987) May 11, 2021
“An attack was carried out on a hiding place in which senior members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s rocket apparatus were staying,” the Israeli military and the Shin Bet said, without identifying the casualties.
The Al-Quds Brigades vowed revenge for the deaths of its commanders, calling it a “cowardly assassination.”
“Our martyrs, commanders Sameh Fahim Al-Mamlouk, Kamal Tayseer Qureiqa and Muhammad Yahya Abu Al-Ata, bled, and we affirm that the response to their assassination will be harsh,” a spokesperson for the Al-Quds Brigades said.
As soon as the airstrike took place, a barrage of near nonstop rocket fire from Gaza began to strike southern Israel. Two Israeli civilians, including an elderly woman, were killed in Ashkelon.
Al-Mamlouk, 34, directed Islamic Jihad’s rocket brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the terror group. Islamic Jihad’s armed wing said that Qureiqa and Abu Al-Ata were field commanders responsible for rocket fire against Israel.
Abu al-Ata is the brother of Baha Abu al-Ata, a senior leader in the terror group assassinated by Israel in 2019. His targeted killing sparked a round of escalation between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
“Their blood will remain an illuminating lamp for our fighters towards the path of pride and dignity. We will proceed with the approach of resistance until the liberation of all beloved Palestine,” the al-Quds Brigades said.
Israel and Hamas entered a second day of fighting on Tuesday, with the current violence showing no signs of letting up. Both sides have reportedly rejected efforts by international mediators to reach a ceasefire.
Tensions had been running high in Jerusalem for days, with thousands of Palestinians clashing violently with Israeli police at the Temple Mount. The holy site is deeply revered by Muslims for its Al-Aqsa Mosque and by Jews, whose two biblical temples were built on the hilltop.
Over 800 Palestinians and more than 30 police officers were wounded in the clashes, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent and Israeli police. Hundreds were hospitalized for wounds from rubber-tipped steel bullets and tear gas, the first aid group said.
Palestinian violence also focused on the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. An Israeli court has ruled to evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes, to be replaced by right-wing Jewish nationalists. The families have appealed the evictions to Israel’s Supreme Court.
In a rare statement, the shadowy commander of Hamas’s armed wing, Mohammad Deif, last week threatened Israel over the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.
“This is our final warning. If the aggression against our people in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood does not stop immediately, we will not stand idly by and the occupation will pay a heavy price,” Deif warned.
On Sunday, an Israeli court delayed a potentially definitive hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions. But the terror group launched a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem on Monday afternoon after issuing a brief ultimatum. Rocket fire continued on southern Israel throughout the night.
In response to the ongoing rockets attacks, IDF fighter jets, aircraft and tanks struck some 130 targets in the Gaza Strip, most of them associated with Hamas, but also some linked to other terror groups in the enclave, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
According to the Hamas health ministry, 28 Gazans were killed, including nine minors, and 122 wounded. Israel says that at least 18 of them were terror group members.
Local media has identified at least six of the minors so far. Mustafa Aloush, Zakaria Aloush and Mohammad Suleiman were all high school students; Zakara and Mustafa were in eleventh grade, while Mohammad was in tenth grade.
Another three children were allegedly killed in an Israeli airstrike in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, including a 10-year-old girl named Rahaf al-Masri. The Israeli military has said the children were killed by an errant Palestinian rocket, however, not Israeli fire.
Fifteen Gazans sustained serious injuries, according to Hamas health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra.
طلاب العلم pic.twitter.com/IVZ02K2pDL
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Israel closed all of its crossings with Gaza on Monday night, including fuel and humanitarian aid.
Gaza has one power plant, which runs on diesel fuel. The coastal enclave normally receives most of its fuel through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing with Israel. According to the Gaza Electrical Company, one of the plant’s generators has already been turned off and the plant as a whole will likely shut down “soon” due to lack of fuel, threatening to severely restrict the number of hours of electricity Gazans receive.
Al-Qidra said that an electrical shortage would threaten the effectiveness of Gaza’s health care system. “This will have a serious effect on public health and the health of our society,” he said.