The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group says an Israeli airstrike killed its commander-in-chief for the southern Gaza Strip.
It comes a day after Israel killed the commander of the Iran-backed group for northern Gaza in an airstrike that sparked the worst cross-border conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants since the end of a war of 11 days in 2021.
The Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quda Brigades confirmed on Sunday that the airstrike in the southern Gaza town of Rafah killed Khaled Mansour, the commander, and two other militants. He said five other civilians, including a child and three women, were also killed in the airstrike which flattened several houses in Rafah.
Late Saturday, Gaza’s health ministry said 24 people had been killed so far in the coastal strip, including six children.
The number likely does not include all those killed in the Rafah airstrike, as civil defense responders were still searching for bodies and survivors under the rubble.
So far, the two highest-ranking Islamic Jihad commanders and several other militants are among the dead. Israel estimates that its airstrikes killed around 15 militants.
Islamic Jihad militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and the Israeli army continued its airstrikes on Gaza, although the intensity of the exchanges decreased in the early hours of Sunday.
The fighting began with Israel’s killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander in a wave of strikes on Friday that Israel said were aimed at preventing an imminent attack.
Hamas, the largest militant group ruling Gaza, appears to be staying on the sidelines of the conflict for now, limiting its response.
Israel and Hamas fought a war just a year ago, one of four major conflicts and several small battles in the past 15 years that have taken a heavy toll on the impoverished territory’s 2 million Palestinian residents .
Whether Hamas continues to stay out of the fight depends in part on the depth of sanctions Israel imposes on Gaza as the rocket attacks continue.
The Israeli army said a rocket fired by Palestinian militants killed civilians, including children, on Saturday night in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya.
The army said it investigated the incident and concluded “without any doubt” that it was caused by a failure on the part of Islamic Jihad. There was no official Palestinian comment on the incident.
A Palestinian medical worker who was not authorized to brief the media and spoke on condition of anonymity said the blast killed at least six people, including three children.
Israeli airstrikes on Saturday killed a 75-year-old woman and injured six others as they prepared to go to a wedding. Airstrikes also destroyed several houses in the Gaza Strip, some of which belonged to Islamic Jihad operatives.
Gaza’s only power plant shut down at noon on Saturday due to a lack of fuel. With the new disruption, Gazans can only use four hours of electricity a day, increasing their reliance on private generators and worsening the territory’s chronic power crisis amid peak summer heat.
Israel has kept its crossings into Gaza closed since Tuesday.