10 May: Israel launched a series of airstrikes on Wednesday against the Islamic Jihad terror group in the Gaza Strip, killing three of its senior commanders and targeting its rocket launch sites. The strikes came amid heightened tensions after a recent flareup of violence that saw over 100 rockets fired at Israel by the Iran-backed group.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it 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. The IDF published footage of one of the strikes, which appeared to show two men walking near a vehicle that was hit.
Islamic Jihad confirmed that the three were among the dead and vowed to respond to their deaths in a video statement. “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 so-called Joint Operations Room of various Palestinian terror factions in the Gaza Strip, which includes both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said Israel and its leaders would “pay the price” for the deadly airstrikes.
According to Palestinian media reports, one civilian was killed and at least one other was seriously hurt in the Israeli strikes. The IDF said it also hit Islamic Jihad “rocket launching infrastructure” across the Gaza Strip. Some 20 people were reported injured in the strikes.
Meanwhile, the IDF’s Home Front Command instructed residents of all towns near the border with Gaza to remain in bomb shelters until further notice, amid fears of rocket fire. The IDF said it will continue to operate to preserve the security of Israeli civilians.
The bombings came days after Gazan terrorists led by Islamic Jihad fired 104 rockets toward 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.