The Israeli army and Palestinian fighters in Gaza exchanged more fire on Saturday morning as the biggest fire in the strip in a year entered its second day.
Israel targeted what it said were rocket factories and warehouses belonging to Islamic Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas, while Palestinian fighters fired rockets and mortars at Israeli towns closer to the edge of the territory. .
One Palestinian was killed in the overnight raids, according to the health ministry in Gaza, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed to 11, including a 5-year-old girl, while two Israelis were wounded while seeking shelter on Friday.
Most of the missiles that entered Israeli territory appeared to be intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or fell in open areas, although one rocket hit an Israeli community near the Gaza border on Saturday morning, slightly injuring a civilian. , according to Israeli media reported. By midday, sirens warning of incoming rocket fire were sounding further north in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.
A ceasefire did not appear imminent, despite early mediation efforts by international actors, including the United Nations. Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the political office of Hamas, the main Islamist militant group in Gaza, said he spoke overnight with officials from Egypt and Qatar, as well as the United Nations.
The battle began on Friday evening when Israel launched airstrikes it said were a preemptive effort to prevent an imminent attack from Gaza by Islamic Jihad, after nearly a week of rising tensions between Israel and the militant group.
Israel arrested one of the group’s senior commanders this week in the West Bank, leading to threats of reprisals from its leadership in Gaza, ahead of an Israeli airstrike on Friday that killed Taysir al-Jabari, a senior Brigades leader Al-Quds, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad.
On Saturday morning, an Israeli military spokesman, Ran Kotsav, told Israel Public Radio that the fighting would likely last at least a week and that no negotiations were underway.
But overnight, the militants reduced the range of their rockets, mostly targeting areas near Gaza rather than towns further north, which they had originally targeted.
Analysts said the recalibration could prevent the situation from escalating further – as could a decision by Hamas to stay on the sidelines of the fighting.
Islamic Jihad is a second, smaller militia based in Gaza that sometimes acts independently of Hamas, which has not always supported the minor group in its rocket wars with Israel, most notably in 2019.
Israeli officials said they were only targeting Islamic Jihad after they said the latter was on the verge of firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets on Friday afternoon.
To underscore this point, the Israeli military also announced that it had arrested 19 Islamic Jihad operatives in overnight raids in the occupied West Bank.
Israel also closed public beaches along the coastline north of Gaza in anticipation of further rocket fire there.