JERUSALEM – The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group fired a barrage of rockets into Jerusalem early Sunday, in the latest round of fierce cross-border attacks that began Friday between the Israeli army and the militant group in Gaza.
The volleys, just after 8 a.m. Sunday, came as hundreds of Orthodox Jews marked a gloomy fast day by visiting a fleeting holy site venerated by Muslims and Jews alike in Jerusalem’s Old City. Warning sirens blared in villages in the surrounding hills.
There were no direct reports of casualties; According to the Israeli military, most of the missiles launched by the militants in the past two days have been ineffective.
Israel had shelled the blocked and impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza with air and artillery strikes on Friday and Saturday and said it was attacking Islamic Jihad military targets, including some in residential buildings. The militants have fired nearly 600 rockets at Israel.
In Gaza, residents emerged after a night of bloodshed amid what has become the most violent conflagration between Israel and Gaza militants in more than a year.
At least 29 people have been killed in Gaza so far, and more than 250 have been injured, according to the health ministry there. The dead included six children and four women, the ministry said on Sunday.
Israel said some of those children were killed Saturday night when an Islamic Jihad missile failed and fell short in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military insisted it was not operating in that area at the time and released video footage of what it believes was the launch failure on Sunday.
The military also cited what Israeli officials and analysts have labeled a major operational success on Saturday night with the elimination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander responsible for the southern region of Gaza, Khaled Mansour.
After hours of uncertainty, Islamic Jihad confirmed the commander’s death early Sunday. His body was found under the rubble of a residential building, along with the bodies of two more militants and five civilians, including three women and a child.
“We affirm that the blood of the martyrs will not be shed in vain,” the Islamic Jihad military wing said in a statement, adding: “The blood of the leader Khaled Mansour will unleash the battle for Jerusalem and the blessed Al- Aqsa Mosque”, referring to the holy site in the city that the Jews revere as the Temple Mount.
The murder of Mr. Mansour took place a day after the Israeli attack on the campaign that eliminated the military commander of the northern region of Islamic Jihad, Taysir al-Jabari. Earlier this week, Israel had arrested a senior figure of the group in the West Bank, leading to threats of reprisal. Israel said the first airstrikes were preemptive, designed to prevent Islamic Jihad from pursuing these threats.
Hamas, the much larger Islamist militant group that dominates in Gaza, has so far remained out of the fighting, a factor that could well limit the size and duration of the conflict.
The last major conflagration in Gaza, fought over 11 days in May 2021, began after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem following days of Israeli-Palestinian clashes there.
It is not yet clear how long the fighting will continue. Israeli officials said Egypt was deeply involved in reaching a ceasefire.
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said on Sunday that “silence will be met with silence, but if they keep firing, we will continue to act,” reiterating a position expressed many times before when Israel tried to wind down previous campaigns in Gaza.
Iyad Abuheweila and Gabby Sobelman reporting contributed.