Israeli airstrike kills 2nd top Islamic Jihad commander

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said an Israeli airstrike late Saturday killed its top commander for the southern Gaza Strip, a day after Israel killed the Iranian-backed group’s commander for northern Gaza in an air raid that triggered the worst cross-border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of an 11-day war in 2021.

Al-Quda Brigades of Islamic Jihad confirmed Sunday that the airstrike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah had killed Khaled Mansour, the commander, and two fellow militants. It said five other civilians, including a child and three women, were also killed in the airstrike that flattened several homes in Rafah.

Late Saturday, Gaza’s Health Ministry said 24 people have been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children. The number doesn’t likely include all of those who were killed in the Rafah airstrike because Civil Defense responders were still looking for bodies and survivors under the rubble.

For now, the two highest-ranking commanders in Islamic Jihad and several other militants are among the dead. Israel estimates its airstrikes have killed about 15 militants.

Militants from Islamic Jihad continued firing rockets toward Israel and the Israeli military continued airstrikes on Gaza, though the intensity of the exchange had decreased in the early hours of 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.

Whether Hamas continues to stay out of the fight depends in part on how much punishment Israel inflicts on Gaza as rocket fire continues.

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 was not authorized to brief media and spoke on condition of anonymity 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.

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