Israel Strikes 'Jihad' Targets Despite Ceasefire
Israel launched fresh strikes against Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said early Friday, weakening a ceasefire put in place after fighting this week killed scores of Palestinians in exchanges of fire.
The ceasefire began Thursday morning following two days of deadly violence in the impoverished enclave triggered by an Israeli strike on Baha Abu al-Ata, an Islamic Jihad commander.
The Israeli army told reporters that new overnight strikes were underway on Islamic Jihad, the second most powerful Palestinian militant group in Gaza after the territory’s rulers Hamas.
It came after five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza -- also after the ceasefire came into effect -- with two of them intercepted by air defenses, according to the army.
The Israeli army “views the violation of the ceasefire and rockets directed at Israel with great severity," it said in a news release.
Israel's military was prepared to "continue operating as necessary against all attempts to harm Israel civilians", it said.
Two injured citizens were being treated in hospital in the southern part of the territory, according to the health ministry in Gaza.
During the day on Thursday normal life had resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens had also embraced the return of relative calm.
Israel's military said some 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defenses had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.
No Israelis were killed, though one rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night for mild injuries and stress.
Israel responded with air strikes, saying it targeted more Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket- and missile-launching squads.
Islamic Jihad has said several more of its members were among those killed in the fighting this week.
Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family, including five children, were killed in an Israeli strike in the central Gaza Strip.
Israel's military said the man targeted and killed in that strike was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.
Relatives, neighburs and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the group, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority (PA) military police officer.