At least eight people were killed when Israeli forces struck targets in Gaza, Palestinian health officials said Friday.
A five-year-old boy was among the dead and 44 people were injured in the raids, officials added. Palestinian officials claimed that one of those killed was a senior fighter.
Israel said it was targeting the Islamic Jihad group and the strikes came as tensions escalated following the capture of a senior militant, Bassam al-Saadi, in the occupied West Bank earlier this week.
“The Israeli government will not allow terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip to set the agenda in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and threaten the citizens of the State of Israel,” said Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“Anyone who tries to harm Israel should know: We will find you.”
Israel said it was targeting militants in an operation called “Breaking Dawn.” He also announced a “state of emergency” on the home front, with schools closed and other activities restricted in communities within 50 miles of the border.
The strikes risk sparking yet another war in the region, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas and is home to around two million Palestinians. The killing of a senior fighter would likely be met with rocket fire from Gaza, pushing the region closer to all-out war.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement that it would seek revenge for the attack.
“The enemy has started a war against our people and against us and we will defend ourselves and our people,” he said.
Officials said Tayseer al-Jaabari, a senior commander of the movement, was killed.
A spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry confirmed there were many casualties and a state of emergency had been declared. Television images showed black smoke rising from the roof of a building on the busy strip.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes in the 15 years since the militant group seized power in the coastal strip from rival Palestinian forces.
The most recent was in May 2021.
Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nakhalah, speaking to Iran’s al-Mayadeen television network, said: “We are starting the fight and the Palestinian resistance fighters must stand together to face this aggression.”
He said there would be no “red lines” in the confrontation and blamed the violence on Israel.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that “the Israeli enemy, who started the escalation against Gaza and committed a new crime, must pay the price and bear full responsibility for it.”
Islamic Jihad opposes Israel’s existence and has carried out attacks over the years, including firing rockets into southern Israel. It is unclear how much control Hamas has over Islamic Jihad, and Israel holds Hamas responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza.