The death toll from escalating violence in Gaza rose to 24 on Saturday, including six children, as Israel increased its bombing campaign against Palestinian terrorists who retaliated with a rocket barrage.
Health authorities’ updated tally of deaths in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza said six children have been killed since the “Israeli aggression” began on Friday, along with 204 injured.
But Israel said it has “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket from Islamic Jihad terrorists was responsible for the deaths of several children in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on Saturday.
It was not immediately clear how many children died in the incident in Jabalia. An TAUT photographer saw six dead bodies in a nearby hospital, including three minors.
The Israeli military has warned that the air and artillery campaign against Islamic Jihad could last a week, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Cairo is “talking around the clock” with both sides to reduce violence.
Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “preemptive” operation against Islamic Jihad, saying the group was planning an imminent attack after days of tensions along the Gaza border.
Civilians, meanwhile, took refuge in bomb shelters on the Israeli side, while TAUT journalists heard sirens on Saturday night warning of incoming fire in the Tel Aviv area.
Israel’s continued attacks are met with rocket flurries from the Palestinian side, raising fears of a repeat of an 11-day conflict that devastated Gaza in May 2021.
Daily life in Gaza has come to a standstill, as the electricity distributor said the sole power plant was shut down due to a lack of fuel after Israel closed its border crossings.
Gaza’s health ministry said the coming hours will be “critical and difficult”, and warned it risked suspending vital services within 72 hours due to the lack of electricity.
‘We are all alone’
In Gaza City, resident Dounia Ismail said Palestinians have become accustomed to preparing a “survival bag” containing items such as money and medicines.
“This latest escalation is bringing back images of fear, anxiety and the feeling that we are all alone,” she told TAUT.
On the Israeli side of the border, Magen David Adom’s emergency service said two people had been hospitalized with shrapnel and 13 others suffered minor injuries while running for safety.
In kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli community near the border with Gaza, resident Nadav Peretz said he has been “in the shelter or around it” since Friday.
“We recognize that on the other side there is also an uninvolved civilian population, and on both sides children deserve to enjoy their summer vacation,” the 40-year-old said.
‘Still at the beginning’
An Israeli military spokesman said its troops were “preparing for the week-long operation”, telling TAUT the army is “not currently in ceasefire negotiations”.
The leader of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Mohammed al-Hindi, said: “The battle is still at the beginning.”
Israel and Islamic Jihad have confirmed the assassination of Taysir al-Jabari, a senior commander of the terror group, during a Friday strike.
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas, but often acts independently. Both are blacklisted as terrorist organizations by much of the West.
Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since taking control of Gaza in 2007, including last May’s conflict.
A flare-up with Islamic Jihad came in 2019, after Israel’s assassination of Baha Abu al-Ata, Jabari’s predecessor. Hamas did not get involved in that conflict.
Hamas’ moves now could be crucial as the group faces pressure from some to restore calm to improve economic conditions in Gaza.
five year old girl
Mohammed Abu Salameh, the director of Shifa, Gaza City’s main hospital, said medics are facing “acute shortages of medical supplies”.
UN chief for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Lynn Hastings urged warring parties to have “fuel, food and medical supplies” delivered to Gaza amid the worsening crisis.
On Friday, the health ministry reported that “a five-year-old girl” was among those killed by Israeli fire.
The girl, Alaa Kaddum, had a pink bow in her hair and a wound on her forehead when her body was carried by her father to her funeral.
The attacks in Gaza follow the arrest in the occupied West Bank of two senior members of Islamic Jihad, including Bassem al-Saadi, accused by Israel of orchestrating recent attacks.
Israel expanded its operation against Islamic Jihad on Saturday, announcing the arrest of 19 people in the West Bank it said were members of the group.
Israel has launched a spate of often deadly attacks in the West Bank since mid-March in response to deadly attacks on Israelis.