Since the start of Friday's fresh Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, ostensibly toward decapitating the leadership of the Islamic Jihad following the Monday night arrest of its senior commander Bassem Saadi, the death toll has continued to rise, with Gaza's health ministry saying 15 Palestinians have been killed in the attacks so far.
As we previously detailed, the Israeli strikes were 'pre-emptive' in that they were not a response to initial rocket fire from Gaza, as is the usual case, but were launched with a declared intent to degrade the militant group Islamic Jihad's capabilities after days of security incidents along the border with Gaza.
Since then, an Israeli official has said some 300 rockets and mortars have been launched from the strip as the two sides are once again on the brink of full-scale war, according to BBC. The last time Israel hit Gaza with what were at the time limited strikes targeting Hamas was mid-July, just after President Biden departed Tel Aviv to travel to Jeddah on his Mideast tour. Importantly, it's the biggest flare-up since the 11-day conflict in May 2021 wherein over 200 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis were killed.
But what the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) announced as the 'Operation Breaking Dawn' offensive is expected to last at least a week. The military is preparing for "a week of fighting," the IDF said Saturday. By day two of the operation, the IDF cited some 200 rockets launched from Gaza, with at least 30 having landed in Gaza, falling far short of targets in Southern Israeli. The IDF said 130 crossed into Israel with 60 intercepted by the Iron Dome, and the rest reportedly landing in open areas.
Israeli media in a mid-evening update (local time) indicated that some 400 rockets have been fired from Gaza since Friday afternoon, strongly suggesting that Hamas has also joined fighting alongside Islamic Jihad.
In a Saturday morning press briefing the IDF said it's already taken out Islamic Jihad commanders and degraded military sites:
In the opening round of Israeli strikes, the military killed one of PIJ’s senior commanders, Tayseer Jabari, whom officials said was planning to attack Israeli civilians near the border. Jabari replaced Baha Abu al-Ata as the group’s commander in northern Gaza after the latter was killed in an Israeli strike in 2019.
In a briefing to reporters Saturday morning, military spokesperson Ran Kochav said the IDF had struck some 40 Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, including six weapon manufacturing workshops, two weapons storage sites, six observation posts and five rocket-launching positions.
Israeli forces have also announced the arrests of 19 members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in recent raids across the West Bank.
Inbound rocket emergency alert sirens have been sounding in Jewish settlements and towns across southern Israel, while for the first time Saturday sirens have been reported in central Israel, most notably in Tel Aviv.
"Initial reports say at least one incoming projectile is intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system," Times of Israel writes. "There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage in the latest wave of rocket attacks."
Meanwhile, The UN Special rapporteur for the occupied territories, Francesca Albanese condemned the Israeli airstrikes as "illegal and immoral" in a Saturday statement. She emphasized the pre-emptive nature of the Israeli aggression, saying, "I condemn Israel's airstrikes in Gaza to allegedly 'deter' Islamic Jihad's possible retaliation for its leader's arrest."
This as BBC reports, "A five-year-old child, two women and several PIJ fighters - including leader Tayseer Jabari - are among the dead."