The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday continued its assault on Gaza Strip militants responsible for the Qassam rockets that batter southern Israel on a daily basis, raising the death toll among Islamic Jihad and Hamas to 13 in the past 24 hours.
The strikes are the IDF’s most deadly military response in months to the frequent attacks from the Hamas-controlled territory.
Islamic Jihad, the group primarily behind Qassam strikes on Sderot and other Negev communities, said four of its members were killed as they walked out of a mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, an Israel Air Force strike targeted the ruling Hamas organization Tuesday, killing at least two members of the group in a strike on a security position in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis, Hamas officials said.
The IDF said the Khan Yunis attack was in response to mortars fired earlier at southern Israel. It said five rockets were also launched by Gaza militants. No one was hurt on the Israeli side.
On Monday night, two IAF strikes killed seven Islamic Jihad militants, including a senior Gaza commander, prompting the group to threaten a wave of “martyrdom” attacks in response to the killings, a phrase used in the past to denote suicide bombings within Israel.
“Blood for blood and bombardment for bombardment,” an Islamic Jihad activist cried through a loudspeaker at a funeral Tuesday for the men killed in Israel Air Force strikes.
Gunmen fired in the air, accidentally severing a high-voltage power line, which fell on the crowd of mourners, killing one person and injuring at least seven others.
Palestinian officials said Majed Harazin, one of the dead, was the most senior Islamic Jihad commander to be killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip in more than a year.
Seeking to dodge the IDF attacks, an Islamic Jihad official broadcast Tuesday on a radio frequency used by Gaza militants, and ordered fighters to turn off their mobile phones and remove their batteries to foil Israeli electronic tracking. They were also told to stay out of vehicles.
Islamic Jihad supporters gathered at the morgue Tuesday and pledged revenge. “The blood of our comrades will be the fuel for the rockets that will bring death and destruction to the Zionists,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Hamza told reporters.
In one of the airstrikes Monday night, the IDF said it targeted a cell that was about to fire rockets at Israel. Undercover troops took part in the attack, the military said, and the leader of the cell was killed. Two other militants also died. The remains of a fourth militant killed in the same strike were discovered Tuesday morning, according to Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.
Both Israel and Islamic Jihad identified him as Karim al-Dahdouh, known as a master rocket-maker. The Israeli missiles obliterated a car on a narrow road, and rescue teams searched for body parts in a nearby grove.
The IDF said the air strikes targeted militants who participated in firing rockets at Israel. The IDF often carries out airstrikes and ground operations aimed at Palestinian rocket squads.