Live Updates: Israel, Gaza militants exchange fire on 2nd day of conflagration

Credit…Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli army and Palestinian militants in Gaza exchanged fresh fire on Saturday morning, as The Strip’s biggest conflagration in a year moved into a second day.

Israel targeted what it said were rocket factories and depots belonging to Islamic Jihad, Gaza’s second-largest militant group after Hamas, while Palestinian militants fired rockets and mortars at Israeli towns. closer to the territory.

A Palestinian was killed in the nightly strikes, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, bringing the total Palestinian death toll to 11, including a 5-year-old girl, while two Israelis were injured while seeking shelter Friday.

Most of the projectiles that entered Israeli territory appeared to have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system or landed in open areas, although one rocket hit an Israeli community near the Gaza border on Saturday morning , slightly injuring a civilian, according to Israeli media reports. By noon, sirens warning of incoming rocket fire sounded further north in the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

No ceasefire seemed imminent, despite initial mediation efforts by international actors, including the United Nations. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, the main Islamic militant group in Gaza, said he had spoken overnight with Egyptian and Qatari officials, as well as the United Nations.

The battle began on Friday afternoon when Israel launched airstrikes it said were a preemptive attempt to thwart an imminent attack on Gaza by Islamic Jihad, after nearly a week of rising tensions between Israel and the militant group. .

Israel arrested one of the group’s senior commanders this week in the West Bank, prompting threats of retaliation from its Gaza leadership, ahead of an Israeli airstrike on Friday that killed Taysir al-Jabari, a senior Al Brigades operative. -Quds, the army wing of the Islamic Jihad.

On Saturday morning, an Israeli military spokesman, Ran Kochav, told Israel Public Radio that the fighting was likely to last at least a week and that no negotiations were taking place.

But overnight, the militants reduced the range of their rocket fire, mainly targeting areas near Gaza instead of towns further north, which they had initially targeted.

Analysts said a recalibration could prevent the situation from worsening further, as could a decision by Hamas to stay on the sidelines of the fighting.

Islamic Jihad is a second, smaller militia based in Gaza that sometimes operates independently of Hamas, which does not always support the secondary group in its rocket wars with Israel, notably in 2019.

Israeli officials said they were targeting Islamic Jihad only, after saying the latter was about to fire anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets on Friday afternoon.

To underscore this point, the Israeli military also announced that it had arrested 19 Islamic Jihad operatives in night raids across the occupied West Bank.

Israel has also closed public beaches along the coast north of Gaza, anticipating further rocket fire there.