GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (Net) — Israel killed three senior commanders of the militant Islamic Jihad group in targeted airstrikes early Tuesday, the military said. Palestinian health officials said 12 people were killed in all, including the commanders, their wives, several of their children and others nearby.
The strikes hit the top floor of an apartment building in Gaza City and a house in the southern city of Rafah. The Palestinian Health ministry said 20 people were injured, and that ambulances were continu-ing to evacuate people from the targeted areas.
Airstrikes continued in the early hours, targeting militant training sites.
In the past, Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have retaliated for such targeted killings. In anticipation of Palestinian rocket attacks in response to the airstrikes, the Israeli military advised residents of com-munities within 25 miles (40 kilometers) of Gaza to stay close to designated bomb shelters.
The military said the three targeted men had been responsible for recent rocket fire toward Israel.
It identified them as Khalil Bahtini, the Islamic Jihad commander for northern Gaza Strip; Tareq Izzeldeen, the group’s intermediary between its Gaza and West Bank members; and Jehad Ghanam, the secretary of the Islamic Jihad’s military council.
The Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, which is smaller than Gaza’s ruling Hamas group, confirmed the three were among the dead. The Palestinian Health ministry said 12 people were killed in total, including the commanders, their wives, several of their children and others nearby.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that Israel will “pay the price” for the killings. “Assassinating the leaders with a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but rather more resistance,” Haniyeh said in a statement.
The airstrikes came at a time of boiling tensions between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip. It is linked, in part, to increasing violence in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has been conducting near-daily raids for months to detain Palestinians suspected in planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Last week, Gaza militants fired several salvos of rockets toward southern Israel, and the Israeli military responded with airstrikes following the death of a hunger-striking senior member of the Islamic Jihad in Israeli custody. The exchange of fire ended with a fragile cease-fire mediated by Egypt, the United Na-tions and Qatar.
The airstrikes are similar to ones in 2022 in which Israel bombed locations housing commanders of Is-lamic Jihad group, setting off a three-day blitz that saw the group lose its two top commanders and other dozens of militants.
Israel says the raids in the West Bank are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see the attacks as further entrenchment of Israel’s 56-year, open-ended occupation of lands they seek for a future independent state.
So far, 105 Palestinians, about half of them are militants or alleged attackers, were killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since the start of 2023, according to an Associated Press tally.