A burst of mortar fire from Gaza into southern Israel on Thursday and Israeli strikes against mortar shell and anti-tank missile launching posts punctuated several hours of an uneasy quiet as the latest round of cross-border fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, a militant group in the Palestinian coastal enclave, stretched into a third day.
Egyptian-led mediation efforts toward a cease-fire were continuing, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials, and there were no immediate reports of casualties from the mortar fire from Gaza or from the Israeli strikes on Thursday.
But fears were high in Israel that Islamic Jihad would still try to retaliate for a targeted assassination by Israel, shortly before 2 a.m. on Thursday, of Ali Ghali, a member of the military council of Islamic Jihad and the commander in Gaza of the group’s rocket launching force.
On Wednesday, Islamic Jihad fired more than 500 rockets and mortar shells toward Israel, according to the Israeli military, reaching as far north as the skies above the suburbs of Tel Aviv, while Israel carried out airstrikes against what the military described as 150 targets linked to the militant group in Gaza.
Mr. Ghali was killed along with two other men. Both the Israeli military and Islamic Jihad confirmed Mr. Ghali’s death. Islamic Jihad identified the two other fatalities as Mr. Ghali’s brother and nephew. The Israeli military described them as also being Islamic Jihad operatives. Images from the scene showed that the Israeli strike had destroyed the apartment the three men were in on the top floor of a residential building in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
“The enemy continues its crimes against those who are safe in their homes, and it will pay the price for that,” Islamic Jihad said in a statement on Thursday, referring to Israel’s actions, adding, “The policy of assassination by bombing residential buildings will not give the enemy victory, and the upcoming strikes will reveal its weakness and impotence.”
The latest round of fighting, Israel’s third confrontation with Islamic Jihad in Gaza in 10 months, began with an attack by Israel on Tuesday that killed three of the militant group’s top commanders, along with 10 civilians, four of them children, according to Palestinian officials.
A total of 25 Palestinians have been killed since the hostilities began on Tuesday, six of them children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. The Israeli military said that approximately a quarter of the rockets fired on Wednesday by Islamic Jihad had failed and had fallen within Palestinian territory. Israeli officials said that four of the Palestinian fatalities on Wednesday, including a 10-year-old child, had been killed by two of the misfired rockets.
There have been no casualties on the Israeli side. Millions of people in areas within range of the rocket fire have been instructed to stay close to safe rooms and bomb shelters. Israel’s air defense systems intercepted most of the rockets that appeared headed toward population centers, though a few slipped through and caused damage to several houses.
Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Myra Noveck and Hiba Yazbek from Jerusalem.
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