Top Palestine militant commanders among 13 killed in Israeli airstrikes
Jerusalem/Gaza, May 9 (EFE).- At least 13 people, including three top commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, were killed on Tuesday in Israeli air attacks on Gaza, said officials.
Amid escalating tension in the region, Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen curtailed his visit to India shortly after arriving in New Delhi for a three-day trip as Israel launched a major military operation against Palestinian militants.
“In light of the events in Israel, Cohen decided to cut short his diplomatic visit to India,” an Israeli foreign ministry statement said.
The Israeli Air Force said it carried out the predawn airstrikes using 40 planes and drones, confirming that they targeted the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some of its leaders, allegedly responsible for recent rocket launches into Israel.
The Palestinian health ministry said the bombing killed 13, including four children and four women. At least 20 people suffered injuries, some of whom were in a critical condition.
The operation, codenamed “Shield and Arrow,” saw buildings housing PIJ officials, its weapons manufacturing units, and military compounds.
The Israeli military said that among the slain militant leaders were Khalil Bahitini, who had been responsible for launching rockets against Israel over the past month, Tareq Ezzedine, who coordinated attacks against Israelis in the occupied West Bank, and Jihad Al-Ghanam, a high-ranking leader of the movement.
Ghanam was among the Islamic Jihad leaders who coordinated with the Hamas movement that de facto rules the coastal strip.
PIJ sources confirmed to EFE that militants were in the buildings targeted in Israeli raids that also targeted military installations of the group, considered a terror organization by Israel, the US, and the European Union.
Ahead of anticipated rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups operating in the strip, some 200 Israeli families residing in communities in southern Israel were being evacuated to other parts of the country on Tuesday, according to the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council.
“The council is ready to help all residents who have special needs, including mobility problems and more,” it said in a statement.
Defense minister Yoav Gallant gave the green light earlier on Tuesday to a program allowing citizens of communities near Gaza to move into other homes in Israel amid hostilities.
A military spokesperson said the Israeli operation was a response to the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants following the death of a prominent prisoner, Khader Adnan, who had been on a hunger strike for 87 days to protest his detention.
The Islamic Jihad military wing, the al-Quds Brigades, confirmed that the three commanders and their families, including children, were among the dead.
“As we mourn our martyr leaders, along with their mujahideen wives and a number of their children, we affirm that the blood of the martyrs will increase our resolve,” the al-Quds Brigades said.
“We will not leave our positions, and the resistance will continue, God willing.” EFE