On Tuesday, Israel launched large-scale airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, killing at least 15 Palestinians, including 3 top Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and 8 civilians in its largest military operation since last August.
The airstrikes are in retaliation for the more than 100 rockets that were fired on southern Israel last week by Islamic militant groups after Palestinian detainee Khader Adnan died after an 87-day hunger strike in an Israeli prison. This week’s attacks are ‘retaliation’ for the rocket attacks last week according to Israeli officials.
Adnan has been seen as a martyr since his death and protest have erupted across the West Bank and Gaza in his honor.
This week’s airstrikes have been named ‘Shield and Arrow’ by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which has confirmed that the strikes targeted 10 different PIJ military installments in Gaza. The facilities most targeted stored or produced rockets or other weapons.
The IDF has also been targeting Khalil Bahatini, a PIJ commander in the northern Gaza Strip who had a key role in Gaza’s rocket attacks on Israel.
Israel reportedly sent messages to Hamas through private channels via mediators stating that the airstrikes this week would only target the PIJ and that Israel would not target Hamas as long as it didn’t get involved in the fighting.
The IDF has warned though that it is prepared for a wider conflict but has reiterated that the decision to have a larger conflict rests with the militant factions in the region.
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In preparation for the airstrikes and probably retaliation from Gaza, Israeli schools were closed across the southern part of the country prior to Wednesday. The education ministry noted that “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.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also cautioned on Tuesday that retaliatory strikes could come “to areas near the Gaza border and far from it, and with significant intensity.”
The defense minister added that “The defense establishment is prepared for any scenario, including a prolonged campaign.”
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