In its biggest military operation since last August, Israel launched major airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing at least 15 Palestinians, among them eight civilians and three senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commanders, according to statements of Palestinian officials.
Last week witnessed over 100 rockets fired on southern Israel by Islamic militant factions in the strip following the news of the death of prominent Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan, who died last Tuesday after an 87-day hunger strike in Israeli prison. Israeli officials are calling this new operation ‘retaliation’ for last week’s rocket launches.
Adnan is being treated as a martyr, and widespread protests began throughout the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it targeted 10 different PIJ military facilities in Gaza, especially those used for producing rockets or weapons storage. The IDF additionally stated that Khalil Bahatini, the PIJ commander in the northern Gaza Strip, is a prime target given his role in last week’s rocket bombardment. The operation has been dubbed ‘Shield and Arrow’.
Interestingly, it appears Israel is specifically conveying to Palestinian officials that it doesn’t wish for a wider war, and is seeking to avoid targeting Hamas, instead taking aim only at PIJ. However, the Israeli military is warning that it’s prepared for a protracted conflict if need be, but that this is the choice of the militant factions.
Israeli schools in the south of the country have been closed ahead of Wednesday, with the education ministry announcing, “Schools within a 25 mile (ca. 40 km) radius from the Gaza Strip will not open tomorrow, meaning some 300,000 children will not be in school.” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned Tuesday that more rocket fire could come, “to areas near the Gaza border and far from it, and with significant intensity.”