May 9, 2023 - World

Israeli strikes on Gaza kill 13, including several civilians and 3 senior militants

Smoke and flames rise above buildings after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Palestinian Territories on May 9.

Smoke and flames rise above buildings after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Palestinian Territories on Tuesday. Photo: Mohammed AbedAFP via Getty Images

Israeli strikes on Gaza Tuesday killed at least 13 Palestinians, including eight civilians and three senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commanders, according to Palestinian officials.

Why it matters: It's the biggest Israeli military operation in Gaza since last August when Israeli forces conducted a wave of air strikes against the PIJ group. Tuesday's strikes will likely lead to a wider escalation.

  • The Israeli military was preparing for rocket fire from Gaza.

Flashback: After prominent Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan died last Tuesday following an 87-day hunger strike, Palestinian factions in Gaza led by the Islamic Jihad fired more than 100 rockets toward Israel.

  • The Israeli military responded with air strikes in Gaza, mostly against Hamas targets.

Driving the news: Tuesday's Israeli strikes began at about 2:30am local time.

  • At least four women and four children were among those killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. About 20 others, including several civilians, were injured.
  • The Israeli Defense Force said it targeted Khalil Bahatini, the PIJ commander in the northern Gaza Strip, who the IDF claimed was in charge of the rocket fire toward Israel in the past month. The Israeli military said he was planning further attacks.
  • The IDF said it also killed Jihad Ghanam, the secretary of the organization's military council in Gaza, and Tareq Izz al-Din, who the IDF claimed was in charge of planning PIJ attacks in the occupied West Bank.
  • The IDF added that it attacked 10 different PIJ military facilities in Gaza which were used for producing rockets or to store weapons.

Behind the scenes: IDF spokesperson Brig. Gen. Daniel Hagari said in a briefing with reporters that the preparations for the operation had been going on for weeks. He added that 40 fighter jets, attack helicopters and attack drones took part in the strikes.

  • He said the operation was planned for last Tuesday after the initial rocket attack from Gaza but the conditions were not ripe enough to implement it then.
  • Hagari said that although Israel sees Hamas as responsible for the situation in Gaza, Tuesday's operation was focused on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Of note: A senior Israeli official said Israel conveyed messages to Hamas via private channels through mediators that Tuesday's operation was only against the Islamic Jihad group and Israel wouldn't target Hamas if it doesn’t get involved in the fighting.

The other side: Tareq Silmi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, said the organization would continue its operation against Israel from where it had stopped last week.

  • "We make the rules in fighting the enemy and all the options are open in response to the crimes of the occupation," he said.

What's next: Hagari said Israel was preparing for retaliation from Gaza and would respond against any group that attacked it.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene the security cabinet later on Tuesday, his office said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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