Gaza: Leading activists among 12 killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza

GAZA CITY: Israel launched pre-dawn airstrikes against militant group on Tuesday Islamic Jihad in Gaza, its army said, killing 12 people according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.
The ministry said women and children were among the dead, but gave no further details on the identities of the victims.
An AFP reporter in Gaza saw the top of a building on fire after the strikes as well as ambulances evacuating victims.
The Israeli army said it targeted three leaders of Islamic Jihad, which it considers a terrorist organization, and struck “weapons manufacturing sites” belonging to the group.
The militant group confirmed that three senior officials had been killed, naming them in a statement Jihad Ghannam, secretary of the Al-Quds Brigades military council, and Khalil al-Bahtini, also of the council and commander of the military branch in the north of Gaza.
The third, Tarek Ezzedinewas described by Islamic Jihad as “one of the leaders of military action” in the occupied West Bank which operated from Gaza.
In Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, an AFP photographer saw the body of a man identified as Ghannam.
“We mourn the leaders and their wives and a number of their children who were killed in a cowardly Zionist crime,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement, vowing the movement’s “blood of martyrs will increase (the) resolve” .
The airstrikes, which began shortly after 2 a.m. (2300 GMT), were still continuing almost two hours later, according to AFP journalists, with a further explosion heard in the east.
The operation took place less than a week after Islamic Jihad announced a truce around Gaza – brokered with the help of Egypt – following a new outbreak of violence.
Israeli and Gazan militants exchanged cross-border fire after the death in Israeli custody of Khader Adnan, who went on a hunger strike for 87 days after his arrest for links to Islamic Jihad.
On Tuesday, the militant group said Israel had “despised all mediator initiatives” and vowed it would “avenge the leaders” killed in the latest airstrikes.
“Treacherous Operation”
In separate statements detailing each of the Islamic Jihad figures killed, the IDF said it would “continue to operate for the safety of civilians in the State of Israel.”
The army presented Ghannan as “one of the most senior members of the organization” who “was in charge of coordinating the transfer of arms and money between the terrorist organization Hamas” and its movement.
Bahtini was “responsible for firing rockets into Israel over the past month”, Israel said.
Ezzedine recently “planned and directed (sic) multiple attacks against Israeli civilians” in the West Bank, where he was originally from, and which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison by Israel for his involvement in suicide bombings in the 2000s, before being released in a prisoner exchange in 2011 and transferred to Gaza, according to the army.
The army has ordered Israeli residents within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the Gaza border to stay near bomb shelters until Wednesday evening.
In a statement, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said “the assassination of the leaders in a treacherous operation will not bring security to the occupier, but rather greater resistance.”
The militant group’s spokesman, Hazem Qassem, warned that Israel “bears responsibility for the repercussions of this escalation”.
Israeli and Gazan militants have fought multiple wars since Hamas seized control of the Palestinian enclave in 2007.
A three-day conflict last August in Gaza left 49 Palestinians dead and none on the Israeli side.
Tuesday’s losses bring the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the start of the year to 120.
Nineteen Israelisa Ukrainian and an Italian were killed in the same period, according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.


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