Jordan, Egypt pan Israeli strikes in Gaza; UN envoy: Civilian deaths ‘unacceptable’

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Shtayyeh appeals to United Nations to speak out against ‘horrific massacre’

A Palestinian man inspects the heavily damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Jihad Ghannam, killed in a predawn Israeli airstrike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 9, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
A Palestinian man inspects the heavily damaged house of Islamic Jihad leader Jihad Ghannam, killed in a predawn Israeli airstrike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, May 9, 2023. (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Jordan and Egypt issued stark condemnations of Israel’s deadly strikes in Gaza Tuesday, hours after the IDF launched Operation Shield and Arrow.

As of early afternoon on Tuesday, Israel’s other Arab allies had yet to comment on the operation, which launched in the early hours of the morning with the targeted assassination of three senior Islamic Jihad officials. In total, 13 people were killed in the strikes, including several women and children.

In its statement, Jordan condemned both the strikes in Gaza and an IDF raid in Nablus in the West Bank. A spokesman for the foreign ministry stressed “the need for the international community to move immediately and effectively to stop this aggression, and to provide protection for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and in all the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The statement also said Amman was continuing its work to ease tensions and end the cycle of violence in the region.

Egypt also condemned the strikes, saying they violated international law while Qatar said they were a “horrific” crime.

A statement from the Egyptian foreign ministry said the airstrikes “are inconsistent with the rules of international law” and could fuel further violence.

Palestinians take cover amid clashes with Israeli security forces during a raid in the old city of Nablus, in the West Bank, May 9, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Egypt has frequently acted as a mediator between Israel and terror groups in Gaza.

The Qatari foreign ministry called the attacks “a new episode in the series of horrific occupation crimes against the defenseless Palestinian people, especially women, and children.”

Doha also warned “of the fading chances of peace and the widening of the cycle of violence due to the provocative Israeli escalation,” while urging the international community “to move urgently to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people and to compel Israel to stop its flagrant violations of international law.”

An Islamic Jihad source told AFP that one of the men who was killed was part of a delegation that had been due to travel to Cairo for a meeting Thursday, which had then been canceled.

The Russian diplomatic delegation in Ramallah said a different man killed in the strikes was a Russian national.

It identified him as Jamal Khaswan, and said his wife and son were also killed in the airstrike. Khaswan was reportedly a dentist who lived downstairs from one of the Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza City.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland condemned the “unacceptable” killing of civilians in the Gaza airstrikes.

Wennesland noted that in addition to the three Islamic Jihad leaders targeted by the IDF, the strikes also killed “a doctor, five women and four children.”

“I condemn the deaths of civilians in the Israeli airstrikes. This is unacceptable,” he wrote.

Batteries of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system in southern Israel on May 9, 2023, following early morning Israeli air strikes on Gaza. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh slammed the “horrific massacre” in Gaza and called on the United Nations to take action.

“The horrific massacre in Gaza killed 13 Palestinians, most of whom are women and children, the military raid into Nablus injured many, including children,” tweeted Shtayyeh.

“We urge the UN, which will mark the Nakba for the first time in 75 years this year, to condemn this aggression and the ongoing killings of our people,” he added, using the Arabic word for catastrophe which the Palestinians use to refer to the events surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel. “The leaders of Israel should not get away with crimes they committed, and consistent standards must be established.”

The bombings came days after Gazan terrorists led by Islamic Jihad fired 104 rockets at Israel in response to the death of an alleged senior member of the group who had been on hunger strike in Israeli prison. Several rockets struck Sderot during the May 2 clash, injuring three workers and damaging homes and cars.

Previous strikes on Islamic Jihad leaders have sparked barrages of rockets on Israeli civilians and intense battles with Israeli troops, some lasting several days.

The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday that it had assassinated Khalil Bahtini, who commands Islamic Jihad in northern Gaza, Jihad Ghanem, a top official in the group’s military council, and Tareq Izz ed-Din, who it said directs Islamic Jihad terror activities in the West Bank from a base in Gaza.

From left: Islamic Jihad commanders that the IDF said it killed in Gaza, May 9, 2023: Khalil Bahtini, Tareq Izz ed-Din, and Jihad Ghanem (IDF Spokesman)

Islamic Jihad confirmed that the three were among the dead. The spokesman for the terror group’s military wing later issued a video statement vowing to respond to their deaths.

“The Al-Quds Brigades and the resistance affirms we will abide by our commitment and duty toward the martyrs, and will confront the aggression with steadfastness and courage,” said the spokesman, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Hamza.

The IDF began hitting targets in the Strip just after 2 a.m. in a coordinated surprise attack on the group’s senior leaders. Dozens of strikes were reported across the Strip in the ensuing hours, sending fireballs skyward as the army targeted terror training sites.

The IDF’s Home Front Command issued instructions for residents of areas near Gaza to stay in or near bomb shelters. It instructed local authorities to open public shelters, and announced that it would block access to some roads running near the enclave, over fears of anti-tank missile fire or sniper attacks.

Home Front Command gave the go-ahead for towns bordering Gaza to begin evacuating residents to other parts of the country, with the military estimating that fighting could last several days.

Emanuel Fabian and agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: