Israel has launched an unprovoked war against the Palestinian resistance group Islamic Jihad. The Israeli army assassinated a high-ranking commander of the militant group on Saturday, the second assassination of an Islamic Jihad leader in two days.
Tayseer Jabari, a senior commander was struck down by an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. Nine other people were killed in the attack on a residential building, including a five-year-old girl and a twenty-three-year-old woman.
On Sunday morning, the IDF confirmed they had assassinated Islamic Jihad''s high-ranking commander in southern Gaza, Khaled Mansour (pictured), in an Israeli airstrike in the city of Rafah on Saturday night. They also announced they had killed a further three of the group's commanders who were with Mansour at the time, Rafah Brigade, Khattab Amassi, and Mansour's deputy, Ziad Madalal.
The IDF has confirmed the assassinations are part of a pre-planned, pre-emptive operation launched on Friday against the Palestinian resistance group. The operation has been dubbed Breaking Dawn.
IDF officials say that to the best of their knowledge, all senior Islamic Jihad officials in Gaza have been killed since Operation Breaking Dawn began on Friday.
"According to our intelligence, all of the senior security operatives of Gaza's Islamic Jihad have been eliminated," the IDF's Head of the Operations Directorate Maj.-Gen. Oded Basiuk said late Saturday night.
"This operation will continue as long as necessary," Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Sunday, congratulating the IDF and Shin Bet for the assassination of Khaled Mansour, describing it as "an extraordinary achievement."
"The goal of this operation is the elimination of a concrete threat against the citizens of Israel and the civilians living adjacent to the Gaza Strip," Lapid said in a statement.
Benny Gantz, Israel's defense minister has signed a call-up of up to 25,000 reserve soldiers for operational purposes, while the IDF began calling up reservists in the Southern Command, Air Defense Units, the Homefront Command, as well as combat troops and officers.
The Israel Air Force has bombed 140 targets and killed at least a dozen Islamic Jihad operatives, the IDF said.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health has confirmed 44 people, including fifteen children, have been killed so far in the series of air strikes that have been carried out by air force warplanes and drones. Hundreds more have been injured. There have been no casualties reported on the Israeli side.
One air strike killed at least 9 people, including four children. However, the IDF is saying the explosion was caused by a rocket fired by Islamic Jihad. The group, according to the IDF, has fired 700 rockets in retaliation, none of which have caused any damage or injuries in Israel. It was one of these rockets that misfired and caused the deaths of the Palestinian civilians, the IDF said. The Israeli military says 15 percent of the rockets usually misfire, while twenty-five percent land inside Gaza. They also confirmed Israel's Iron Dome has blocked 97 percent of the rockets that have made their way into Israel.
The prime minister's office has seized on the alleged failed rocket by accusing Islamic Jihad of using civilians as human shields.
"Islamic Jihad is killing Palestinian children in Gaza. One in four rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel lands inside the Gaza Strip," the international spokesperson for Prime Minister Yair Lapid Keren Hajioff said. "Iran's proxies, including Islamic Jihad, have a long history of hiding behind civilians to target Israeli civilians. The world should be outraged at this terrorist group targeting innocent Israelis and killing innocent Gazans."
"Israel will continue to stand up to this vicious terrorist organization, which threatens Israelis and Palestinians alike," Hajioff said.
Separately in the West Bank on Saturday, an Israeli raid resulted in the arrest of nineteen members of Islamic Jihad, an IDF statement said. A further twenty-one were taken into custody on Sunday.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territory described the Israeli operation "not only as illegal, but irresponsible."
"The situation in Gaza is on the verge of a humanitarian crisis," Francesca Albanez told Al Jazeera. "The only way to secure wellness of Palestinians wherever they are is to lift the siege and allow aid to enter."
Albanez also slammed the U.S. for saying Israel had the right to defend itself. "Israel cannot claim that it's defending itself in this conflict," she said.
The UAE, China, France, Ireland, and Norway have requested a closed meeting of the UN Security Council on Monday to discuss the crisis, UAE state news agency Wam reported Sunday.
"The United Arab Emirates has emphasised the need to restore calm to the Gaza Strip, reduce escalation, and preserve civilian lives," Afra Mahash Al Hameli, director of the foreign ministry's Strategic Communications Department, said in the statement carried by Wam.
Meantime Egypt late Sunday night brokered a ceasefire, which came into effect at 11:30pm Sunday night local time.
Israel said it was necessary to launch a "pre-emptive" operation against Islamic Jihad because the group was planning an attack following the arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader earlier in the week in the Jenin refugee camp, during which the Israeli army shot dead a 17-year-old Palestinian boy and allegedly assaulted the Islamic Jihad leader and his wife. It was reported an IDF dog bit the man while he was being dragged from his house.