This is a developing story.
6.18 PM: The Ministry of Health announces two unidentified Palestinians have been killed and two others injured in an airstrike on a civilian vehicle near the village of Qarara north of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
8 PM: The two latest fatalities have been named as Sa’ed Jawad Farwaneh and Wael Mohammad Al-Agha. The death toll now stands at 15, including four children and four women.
This article has been updated with further details about the circumstances of the killing of 19-year-old and 17-year-old sisters Dania and Eman Adas.
Jerusalem24 – Noelle Mafarjeh and Nadeen Alshaer – Israel launched a series of airstrikes on Gaza without warning just after 2AM on Tuesday, dropping over 100 missiles in under an hour.
13 Palestinians were killed including four children from three families and four women. At least 20 were injured, some critically, including three children and seven women. The death toll is expected to rise.
The Israeli military announced it killed three leaders with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which the PIJ confirmed in a statement. Photographs from the scene appear to show the apartments of the leaders targeted by so-called “precision” strikes, which killed both the leaders as well as several members of their family and other civilians.
An Israeli military spokesman quoted by Middle East Eye said they were “aware of some collateral” but had no immediate comment.
A total of 128 Palestinians including 25 children have now been killed in 2023 across Gaza, the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, and Israel.
The 13 fatalities belonged to five families, including the families of the three PIJ leaders. Five members of two families unrelated to the leaders were also killed.
One of the very first airstrikes of the night targeted the home of PIJ leader Khalil Al-Bahtini in the Shujaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City. The strike killed Al-Bahtini, his 4-year-old daughter Hajar, and his wife Leila. 19-year-old and 17-year-old sisters Dania and Eman Adas were killed is the same strike. Dania was due to be married in June.
Concurrently to the Shujaiyah strike, PIJ leader Tareq Izz El-Din and his two children, 11-year-old Miyar and 8-year-old Ali, were killed when their building in the middle of Gaza City was bombed. Three members of the family of Dr. Jamal Khaswan, Chairman of Al-Wafa Hospital, were killed in the same strike.
The Russian Mission in Palestine announced this morning that Dr. Khaswan and his 19-year-old son Youssef were both Russian citizens. Following Dr Khaswan and his wife Mervat’s death, the mission wrote, “two children with Russian citizenship have become orphans”.
PIJ leader Jihad Ghannam and his wife Wafaa were killed in their home in Rafah. Ghannam had survived multiple assassination attempts and his legs had been amputated. Several members of his family were killed in previous assaults on Gaza.
Israeli journalist Haggai Matar wrote on Twitter it is “important to remember that the children who were killed by Israeli missiles today were not killed “by accident”. Israel knew they were there, and the decision was made to shoot and kill them and to view them as “collateral damage” in advance.”
The death toll in Gaza in 2023 now stands at 16, including nine women and children.
On Tuesday last week, 58-year-old Hashel Mubarak was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Gaza following rocket fire from the PIJ which was launched after the death of hunger-striking detainee Khader Adnan in Israeli custody.
“People are afraid”
According to journalists on the ground, after the initial airstrikes targeted the families at 2:03 AM, around 40 Israeli aircraft launched over 100 airstrikes “in about half an hour” on six known Al-Quds Brigades’ locations in the Strip, including west of Khan Younis, west of Rafah, in Deir Al-Balah, in Gaza City, and east of Gaza city.
No injuries were reported during the subsequent airstrikes but “huge material damage” was caused to residential buildings and residents have fled their homes, journalist Hani Alshaer tells 24FM, Jerusalem24’s sister station.
“People are afraid of another round,” says Alshaer. “You can see it on their faces.”
lsraeli airstrikes kill 13 Palestinians in Gaza, including 4 children and 4 women. pic.twitter.com/3sAD24NFXX
— TIMES OF GAZA (@Timesofgaza) May 9, 2023
Alshaer says that Gazans expected such an outcome given the “tense situation” of the past few weeks, but that “no one expected the timing.”
Israeli surveillance drones had been crowding the skies over Gaza in the days ahead of the attack, according to political analyst Mohammad Hijazi.
“There were talks in Gaza that a wide-scale assassination operation would be happening soon,” Hijazi tells 24FM. “Some names were mentioned – but those who were targeted weren’t among them.”
Hijazi believes Israel is mainly targeting the PIJ as Hamas “hasn’t been a part of the recent confrontations”. The PIJ has also been more active in retaliating against Israeli violations in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including during Ramadan.
“Targeting the Islamic Jihad sends multiple messages,” says Hijazi. “One of them is that PIJ will be chased down by Israel wherever their members are, since the PIJ has armed and active cells in Jenin, Nablus, and different parts of the occupied West Bank. There are talks that Israel also plans on targeting PIJ leaders abroad, mainly in Damascus. And by targeting prominent senior members of the PIJ, Israel is causing severe losses to the group.”
Gallant: Expect “drawn-out” fighting
Israeli authorities have closed the crossings between Gaza and Israel until further notice and have put evacuation and sheltering orders in place for Israeli cities in the so-called Gaza envelope surrounding the Strip, in anticipation of retaliatory rocket fire from Gaza.
No rockets have been fired from Gaza as of publication.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, addressing the heads of the Israeli municipalities in the Gaza envelope, said they should be ready to deal with “all scenarios”, including “drawn-out” fighting.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said this morning: “The assassination of leaders will not bring security to the occupation, but more resistance.”
Hijazi doubts that Hamas will become involved in launching rockets, however, and thinks they will restrict themselves to “okaying” what could be a joint PIJ-PFLP or DFLP response “lasting a few days”.
“If Hamas were to be part of the response, it would result in a wide-scale war,” he says. “The equations are complicated in Gaza. UNRWA is financially broke. During the 2014 War, UNRWA hosted about 340,000 refugees from Gaza in its schools, providing food, shelter, and everything in between. Who will save Gaza again if another wave of internal immigration is to happen?”
“We welcome the attacks”
Israeli politicians and the public had been vocal about their displeasure with the scope of Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza last week that killed one Palestinian civilian, which they said weren’t “forceful” or “severe” enough to “restore deterrence”.
Far-right extremist and Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir, along with his Jewish Power party, had boycotted all Knesset proceedings and cabinet meetings since last Wednesday in protest. Ben-Gvir issued a statement saying this morning’s airstrikes were “a nice start”, that he “welcomed the attacks”, and that his party would be resuming its government duties going forward.
Shortly after the initial wave of airstrikes, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced with great fanfare that it had launched in coordination with the Shin Bet “Operation Shield and Arrow”, and Israeli and international headlines touted the assassination of the three PIJ leaders.
On promotional posters where they misspelled the names of two of the leaders and used out-of-date photographs, Israel’s military called Tareq Ezz El-Din a “Coordinator of terrorism” in the occupied West Bank and listed Jihad Ghannam as “working […] in promoting destructive terrorism […] around the world”, without specifying what these charges refer to.
Despite what the headlines and posters might suggest, Anshel Pfeffer writes in Haaretz: “No one in Israel is pretending they [PIJ leaders] were “ticking bombs” about to launch another imminent attack. Netanyahu has done here what he preferred not to do in the past and broke a cease-fire in order to assassinate mid-level jihadist commanders, along with at least 10 civilians, for carrying out rocket attacks in which no Israelis died.”
The Israeli military’s ostentatious launch of its operation was also criticized on social media, as well as former Israeli military advocate Maurice Hirsch’s statement that it was “irrelevant to ask how many children were killed”, and former member of Knesset Yinon Magal comment of “Cheers” in response to a video of young Jewish Israelis celebrating the deaths in Gaza.
announcing another bombardment of gaza like it’s some incoming netflix release is absolutely dumbfounding levels of psychopathy https://t.co/IlcGnj9rYV
— emily wilder (@vv1lder) May 9, 2023
“it is irrelevant to ask how many children were incidentally killed”
— Ben White (@benabyad) May 9, 2023
2\ Prominent #Israeli media figures are cheering the celebration of death & destruction (this guy used to be a Knesset member👇). The comments get worse from here!
Israeli leaders of gov & opposition are also voicing strong support for the airstrikes that killed 10 civilians! pic.twitter.com/77jxulLMdv
— Muhammad Shehada (@muhammadshehad2) May 9, 2023