The Israeli army announced on Saturday that it was preparing for “a week” of raids on the Gaza Strip, where exchanges of fire with Islamic Jihad have already left more than a dozen dead on the Palestinian side .
For the first time since this new outbreak of violence that began on Friday, warning sirens sounded in the Israeli metropolis of Tel Aviv in the late afternoon . So far, they have sounded in localities near Gaza, from where Islamic Jihad fires rockets in response to Israeli army strikes.
The Palestinian group's armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, confirmed in a short statement that it fired “a heavy barrage of rockets” towards the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot.
“The battle is only at its beginning,” said Mohammed Al-Hindi, an official of the organization, in a press release. And this after Egyptian sources told AFP that Cairo, a historic intermediary between Israel and the armed groups in Gaza, was trying to establish a mediation.
An Israeli military spokesman assured him that the army was preparing “for a week-long operation” and “was not currently conducting negotiations for a ceasefire”. Gaza authorities reported 15 dead, including a five-year-old girl, and 125 injured in Israeli shelling.
On the Israeli side, two people were injured by shrapnel, according to the emergency services. Most of the rockets were intercepted by the missile shield, the army said, while a building was damaged in Sderot and a fire broke out in the same southern sector, according to local authorities.
For 24 hours, Israel has been targeting sites belonging to Islamic Jihad, of which 15 fighters have been killed according to the Israeli army. Among them, a commander-in-chief of the group, Tayssir Al-Jabari.
This new escalation, the worst between the two enemies since a blitzkrieg last year, has already deprived the small tongue of land wedged between Egypt, the Mediterranean and Israel and its 2.3 million inhabitants of their only central electricity.
It “stopped (working) due to a shortage” of fuel, the electricity company said on Saturday after the Jewish state, which has imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007 , has cordoned off border crossings in recent days, effectively interrupting diesel deliveries.
Due to power cuts, the coming hours will be “crucial and difficult”, warned the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
The UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator (Ocha) in the Territories Palestinians, Lynn Hastings, called for allowing “fuel, food and medical supplies” into the enclave.
In Gaza City, residents have holed up in their homes all day, noted an AFP journalist.
It was the arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader in the West Bank earlier this week that led to this new confrontation. Fearing reprisals, Israeli authorities said they were launching a “preemptive attack” in Gaza, a microterritory ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas and where Islamic Jihad is well established.
Israeli forces also arrested in the West Bank, territory occupied since 1967 by the Jewish state, 19 members of the group considered terrorist by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
This is the worst confrontation between the Jewish state and armed organizations in Gaza since the May 2021 war, which in eleven days left 260 dead on the Palestinian side, including combatants, and 14 dead in Israel, including a soldier. , according to local authorities.
After the first raids, the organization accused the Jewish state of having “started a war”.
For Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, it is a “precise counterterrorism operation against an immediate threat”, that of Islamic Jihad, “an auxiliary of Iran” wanting to “kill innocent Israelis”.
The Revolutionary Guards, Iran's ideological army, threatened Israel with “paying a heavy price”, assuring that the Palestinians were “not alone”.
In 2019, the death of an Islamic Jihad commander in an Israeli operation had already resulted in several days of deadly firefights. Hamas, which has fought Israel in four wars since taking power in 2007, kept its distance.
For Jamal al-Fadi, professor of political science at Al- Azhar of Gaza, Hamas does not want “to be dragged into an all-out war” and “as it does not get involved”, this new outbreak of violence should end “in the days to come”.
“But if more civilians are killed, he will feel compelled to retaliate”, underlines Mairav Zonszein, expert of the International Crisis Group (ICG).