Updated May 10, 2023 - World

Israel launches fresh strikes on Gaza as fighting intensifies

Smoke rises after Israeli rocket attack hit a building in Beit Lahia, Gaza on May 10, 2023. (Photo by Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Smoke rises after Israeli strikes hit a building in Gaza on May 10. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Israeli military launched fresh airstrikes on Gaza Thursday morning local time after earlier strikes on the enclave killed more than 20 Palestinians, including civilians. Palestinian militants on Wednesday fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel.

The big picture: It's the biggest escalation in Gaza since last August when Israel conducted another operation against the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

Driving the news: The Israeli air force began its airstrikes overnight Monday into Tuesday.

  • In response, Palestinian militants in Gaza began firing rockets toward Israel on Wednesday. More than 460 had been fired as of late Wednesday, the Israeli military said. More than half failed to cross into Israeli territory or were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome system. No casualties had been reported.
  • The Israeli strikes had killed at least 21 Palestinians, including five children and four women as of late Wednesday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza.
  • Several PIJ senior commanders were also killed, including the commander of Islamic Jihad’s rocket launching force, the Israeli military said.
  • More than 40 Palestinians have been wounded since the Israeli strikes began.

Behind the scenes: It took about 36 hours for the PIJ to retaliate for the initial Israeli strikes. Israeli officials attributed the delay to a command-and-control crisis created by the killing of the organization's military leaders.

  • Israeli officials claimed the PIJ wanted to conduct a "quality attack" like an anti-tank missile attack or an attack in the West Bank, but several of its attempts were prevented by the Israeli military.
  • “They know this rocket fire is meaningless and that most of it will be intercepted, but any other attack was prevented so they had no choice," a senior Israeli official said.
  • A PIJ spokesperson said on Tuesday that the group makes "the rules in fighting the enemy and all the options are open in response to the crimes of the occupation."

State of play: A spokesperson for the PIJ said on Wednesday afternoon local time that Egypt was conducting mediation efforts with the Palestinians and the Israelis to reach a cease-fire in Gaza.

  • Egypt told Israel that the PIJ wants a cease-fire in Gaza, an Israeli official told Axios.
  • But by early Thursday local time, no cease-fire had been announced.
  • Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday and "underscored his continued support for Israel’s right to defend its people," the Pentagon said. Austin also "urged de-escalation towards a sustainable calm."

Between the lines: After the first rocket barrage from Gaza, Hamas issued a statement stressing it was a united response by all of Palestinian factions.

  • But Israeli officials claimed the statement was mostly meant to save face because the organization that controls the Gaza strip wasn’t really involved in the fighting.
  • “We don’t see that Hamas is involved in the fighting in Gaza at the moment. I am putting aside their declarations. We will react to actions and we don’t see Hamas actions at the moment," IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters.
  • A senior Israeli official told Axios that if Hamas was really part of the fighting, it would have been picked up immediately by Israeli intelligence. “It is not the case at the moment," the official said.

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

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