An Israeli airstrike killed a senior commander in the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, the fighters said Sunday, their second leader to be slain amid an escalating cross-border conflict.
The killing late Saturday of Khaled Mansour, who led the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad’s operations in the southern Gaza Strip, came a day after another Israeli strike killed the militant’s commander in the north. Already, the fighting has killed some 30 Palestinians and seen rockets fired toward Israel in the worst violence between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of an 11-day war in 2021.
Meanwhile, tensions could escalate as Jews mark a holy day that will see ultranationalist Israeli lawmakers visit a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Such visits can be a frequent flashpoint for violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Al-Quds Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed Sunday that the airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah killed Mansour and two fellow militants. The militants said the strike also killed five civilians, including a child and three women, as it flattened several homes.
Before that strike, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 24 people had been killed in the fighting so far in the coastal strip, including six children. Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants. They have yet to offer an updated figure after the Rafah strike.
Militants from Islamic Jihad continued firing rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military continued airstrikes on Gaza, though the intensity of the exchange appeared to decrease early Sunday.
The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a senior Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes Friday that Israel said were meant to prevent an imminent attack.
Hamas, the larger militant group that rules Gaza, appeared to remain on the sidelines of the conflict for now, keeping its response limited. Israel and Hamas fought a war barely a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several smaller battles over the last 15 years that exacted a staggering toll on the impoverished territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents.
The Israeli military said an errant rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed civilians, including children, late Saturday in the town of Jabaliya, in northern Gaza. The military said it investigated the incident and concluded “without a doubt” that it was caused by a misfire on the part of Islamic Jihad. There was no official Palestinian comment on the incident.
A Palestinian medical worker who spoke on condition of anonymity as they had not been granted permission to speak to journalists said the blast killed at least six people, including three children.
Israeli airstrikes Saturday killed a 75-year-old woman and wounded six others as they were preparing to go to a wedding. Airstrikes have also destroyed several houses in the Gaza Strip, some of them belonging to Islamic Jihad members.
The lone power plant in Gaza ground to a halt at noon Saturday due to a lack of fuel. Israel has kept its crossing points into Gaza closed since Tuesday. With the new disruption, Gazans can use only four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and deepening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.