Israel hits Gaza with air attacks as tensions escalate

Israel attacked the besieged Gaza Strip with warplanes on Friday, killing at least 10 people including a commander of the Islamic Jihad group and a young girl.

Taysir al-Jabari, a commander of the al-Quds Brigades, the military arm of the Islamic Jihad, died in an air raid on an apartment in the Palestine Tower in the centre of Gaza City, the group said.

The health ministry in Gaza said at least 10 people were killed including al-Jabari and a five-year-old girl. At least 55 people were wounded and being treated at hospitals as a result of the Israeli raids.

Smoke poured out of the seventh floor of the building in Gaza City. Civil defence teams rushed to the scene to evacuate people and put out a fire caused by the attack.

“We’ve just had Friday lunch and my children were playing. Suddenly a huge explosion hit the tower in which we live. We ran away. The sound was massive. We were very shocked as the place is full of civilians. I saw many casualties that were evacuated,” one resident told Al Jazeera with blood covering his clothes.

Gaza-based author and activist Rana Shubair, who lives in the al-Remal neighbourhood in the western side of the Gaza Strip, said she heard “four to five loud bangs” when Israel attacked the Palestine Tower nearby

“I was asleep and found myself waking up running, wondering what happened,” Shubair said.

“There was panic in the area, people running. You can imagine … the amount of horror that this caused for the people living in the building,” she added. “There were children playing … this was something really unpredictable for us.”

Multiple blasts could be heard and seen throughout Gaza. Israeli reconnaissance drones could be heard hovering over the besieged enclave.

Attacks also struck the southern areas of Khan Younis and Rafah, as well as the al-Shuja’iya neighbourhood.

In the first response to the attack, rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel could be seen as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system lit up the night’s sky with explosions.

‘Duty to defend ourselves’

Renewed air strikes also struck the eastern Gaza Strip, with Israeli fighters jets continuing to roam above the densely populated city on Friday evening, Al Jazeera’s Youmna al-Sayed reported.

The attacks follow days of tension with the Islamic Jihad after the arrest of senior Palestinian leader Bassam al-Saadi in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

They also came after days of border closures, including the closure of the Karam Abu Salem commercial crossing, which is responsible for the flow of fuel needed for Gaza’s sole power plant.

In a statement, the Islamic Jihad said: “The enemy has begun a war targeting our people, and we all have the duty to defend ourselves and our people, and not allow the enemy to get away with its actions which are aimed at undermining the resistance and national steadfastness.”

Ghazi Hamad, a senior official for Hamas – the group that governs the strip – said the latest attack is “a brutal crime, a massacre done by the Israeli occupation against our people”.

Hamad told Al Jazeera there is “no justification” for the attacks, adding that the Palestinian factions have the right to defend themselves and “protect” their people.

According to him, factions in Gaza have maintained “good coordination” and are exploring the “best option for the Palestinian People.

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