September 30, 2022

Credit…Mohamed Salem/Reuters

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters fired a barrage of rockets into Jerusalem early Sunday, the latest round of fierce cross-border attacks that began Friday with Israeli strikes against the Gaza-based group.

The salvos by the militants, which occurred shortly after 8am on Sunday, came as hundreds of Orthodox Jews marked a somber day of fasting by visiting a volatile holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City. Warning sirens wailed in villages in the surrounding hills.

There were no immediate reports of casualties. Most of the rockets fired by the militants over the past two days have been ineffective, with the vast majority either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system or falling in open areas, according to the Israeli military.

Israel had pounded the besieged and impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza with airstrikes and artillery on Friday and Saturday, saying it was attacking Islamic Jihad military targets, including some located in residential buildings. Militants have fired nearly 600 rockets into Israel.

In Gaza, residents emerged after a night of bloodshed amid the most violent firefight between Israel and Gaza militants in more than a year.

At least 29 people have been killed so far in Gaza, according to the health ministry there, and more than 250 have been injured. Among the dead are six children and four women, the ministry announced on Sunday.

Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Israel said some of those children were killed Saturday night when an Islamic Jihad rocket misfired and landed in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military insisted it was not operating in that area at the time and released video on Sunday of the failed launch.

The military also marked what Israeli officials and analysts hailed as a major operational success Saturday night with the elimination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in charge of the southern Gaza Strip, Khaled Mansour.

After hours of uncertainty, Islamic Jihad confirmed the commander’s death early Sunday. His body was found under the rubble of a building in a residential area along with the bodies of two other militants and five civilians, including three women and a child.

“We confirm that the blood of the martyrs will not be shed in vain,” the military wing of Islamic Jihad said in a statement, adding: “The blood of leader Khaled Mansour will ignite the battle to defend Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.” , referring to the sacred site of the city that the Jews honor as the Temple Mount.

Mr. Mansour’s killing came a day after Israel’s opening strikes in the campaign killed the military commander of Islamic Jihad’s northern region, Taysir al-Jabari. Earlier in the week, Israel had arrested a senior official of the group in the West Bank, leading to threats of retaliation. Israel said its initial airstrikes were pre-emptive, aimed at stopping Islamic Jihad from following through on those threats.

Hamas, the much larger Islamist militant group that dominates Gaza, has so far stayed out of the fray, a factor that may well limit the scope and duration of the conflict.

The last major firefight in Gaza, which raged for 11 days in May 2021, began after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets toward Jerusalem following days of Israeli-Palestinian clashes there.

It remains unclear how long the fighting will continue. Israeli officials said Egypt was deeply involved in trying to secure a ceasefire.

Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said Sunday that “quiet will be answered with quiet, but if they continue to fire we will continue to act,” reiterating a position that has been expressed many times in the past as Israel seeks to erase previous campaigns in Gaza.

Iyad Abuheweila and Gabby Sobelman contributed to the report.

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