JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired a barrage of rockets into Jerusalem early on Sunday, the latest in a series of intense cross-border border attacks by the Israeli army and the Gaza-based militant group that began on Friday.
Just after 8 a.m. Sunday, hundreds of Orthodox Jews visited the turbulent holy site revered by Muslims and Jews alike in Jerusalem’s Old City, marking a gloomy day of fasting. Sirens blared in the villages in the surrounding hills.
There were no immediate reports of casualties; according to the Israeli military, most of the rockets fired by the militants over the past two days were ineffective, the vast majority of which were either intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defenses or fell harmlessly in open areas .
Israel hit the blockaded and impoverished coastal enclave of Gaza with airstrikes and artillery on Friday and Saturday, saying it was attacking Islamic Jihad military targets, including some in residential buildings. Militants fired nearly 600 rockets at Israel.
In the Gaza Strip, residents emerged after a night of bloodshed in the most intense clashes between Israel and Gaza militants in more than a year.
At least 29 people have been killed and more than 250 injured in the Gaza Strip so far, according to the local health ministry. The ministry said on Sunday that six children and four women were among the dead.
Israel said some children were killed when an Islamic Jihad rocket misfired in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday night. The Israeli military insists it was not operating in the area at the time and released video footage of the failed launch on Sunday.
The military also recorded what Israeli officials and analysts called a major success on Saturday night, killing Khalid Mansour, a senior Islamic Jihad commander in charge of southern Gaza.
After hours of uncertainty, Islamic Jihad confirmed the commander’s death earlier on Sunday. His body was found under the rubble of a building in a residential area along with those of two other militants and five civilians, including three women and a child.
“We confirm that the blood of the martyrs will not be shed in vain,” the Islamic Jihad’s military arm said in a statement, adding that “the blood of leader Khalid Mansour will ignite the defense of Jerusalem and the Holy Al-Ar-Ah. Quesa Mosque”, referring to the holy site in the city revered by the Jews as the Temple Mount.
Mr. Mansour’s killing came a day after Israel launched a campaign to eliminate the Islamic Jihad military commander Tessir Jabari in the northern region. Earlier this week, Israel arrested a senior official of the group in the West Bank, leading to threats of retaliation. Israel said its initial airstrikes were pre-emptive and aimed at preventing Islamic Jihad from taking action against the threats.
Hamas, the larger Islamist militant group that dominates Gaza, has so far not been involved in the fighting, a factor that is likely to limit the scope and duration of the conflict.
The last Gaza fire, which lasted 11 days in May 2021, began when Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into Jerusalem, days after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is unclear how long the fight will last. Israeli officials say Egypt is deeply involved in the ceasefire effort.
“Quiet will respond with quiet, but if they continue to fire, we will continue to take action,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said on Sunday, reiterating what Israel has stated many times before as it tries to ease. Stand past election campaigns in Gaza.
Iyad Abkhevira and Gaby Sobelman Contribution report.